WHEN Davao City was hit by the pandemic in March 2020, the first restrictions imposed were on mass gatherings. Social events as weddings, birthdays, and corporate events were advised to keep the number of guests below 20.
Those who were first affected were event organizers and their suppliers. Others thought of reintroducing minimalist events organizing just to accommodate the smaller guest list. Eventually, when the cases in Davao City continued to surge, movement and travel restrictions were imposed. It did not only affect one or two elements in tourism but instead the entire sector. Hotels had to temporarily close down, tourism-related workers had to be laid off, and tourism-related freelancers had to find other means of income.
In a report from Mindanews in April 2021, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said tourism revenues in Davao Region were down by 93.7 percent to P3.4 billion in 2020 from P54.2 billion in 2019. Within the duration of the pandemic 41 tourism-related establishments in Davao Region have also decided to temporarily close down.
For some reason, this bumpy road has not left those in the tourism sector to be bitter and sorry for themselves. Instead of sulking because of the business losses, the members of the Davao Tourism Association (Data) and other stakeholders in the tourism industry decided to gather together and initiate a vaccination activity for their members belonging to the A4 priority list from June 30 to July 4, 2021 at the Waterfront Insular Hotel.
Vaccination as part of the recovery plan
Bakuna by the Sea is a vaccination program created under the partnership of the local government and private sectors. With the number of vaccines allocated by the local government to the tourism sector, the private sector was asked to provide for the logistics, the location, and the manpower.
“The entire industry is composed of more than 10 groups: hotels and accommodation and resorts, food and beverage (restaurants), travel and tours, transportation, beauty and wellness, educational institutions, farm tourism, Halal tourism, digital tourism, film tourism, sports tourism, sustainable, medical, and the media and the social events,” said Data president-elect Cherry Faye Al-ag during The Talking Heads interview with SunStar Davao.
Because of how huge the industry is, they target to vaccinate 9,000 individuals and while the initial end of the program was only until July 2, it was extended until July 11.
As the organizers put it, “Basta Bakunado, Mubarog ang Turismo,” which roughly translates to “As long as people are vaccinated, tourism will rise.
Al-ag also shared that she believes the tourism sector in the region is beaten up with all the challenges and restrictions brought by the pandemic but it is not “knocked down.” The Bakuna by the Sea, she said, is a testament to the industry’s efforts to rise despite everything.
Understanding that this is such a huge responsibility, Al-ag said Data immediately tapped industry leaders willing to work with them to make Bakuna by the Sea possible. She said they appreciated all the other business owners who volunteered their spaces as vaccination sites but said the organizers eventually decided on Waterfront Insular Hotel because of the wider space that can accommodate more vaccinees.
“It is their 60th anniversary here in Davao City. Instead of the usual funfair, they channeled the celebration by giving back to Davao City for the 60 years of partnership,” she shared.
Bakuna by the Sea in the hands of professional organizers
While many vaccinees pre-registered and came to the vaccination area daily, many of them shared good experiences during the queuing process. This may be attributed to how the entire program was handled by individuals and groups who did organizing for a living.
According to Al-ag, they assigned people in different committees who will handle the vaccine sites, the media to inform more people, the registration site, and the medical and non-medical volunteers.
The pre-registration started online, which the vaccinees were asked to fill out before coming to Waterfront Insular Hotel. The verification of registration happened at the hotel’s parking lot, followed by health condition assessments well done by medical volunteers. Here, nurses would make sure vaccinees understand the possible side effects and what they are getting themselves into. As getting inoculated with the vaccine is 100-percent voluntary, it is still important to not leave stones untouched and to have all areas of the process explained to the vaccinees. All the steps have chairs and shade so the vaccinees do not have to wait standing under the heat of the sun.
If the individual is deemed fit for vaccination (with normal pulse rate and blood pressure), they are to proceed to the vaccination tables. Before letting them go, the blood pressure will be checked again. Unless it reads normal, the vaccinee will be asked to rest and relax for 15 minutes before taking the blood pressure again.
One of those vaccinated was media practitioner Rodel Natad, reporter of GMA Super Radyo Davao.
“Isip communication frontliner, mapasalamaton ko sa hingpit nga nabakunahan ilabi na nga padayong gasaka ang kaso sa Covid-19 sa rehiyon. Pinaagi sa bakuna, maprotektahan nako akong pamilya ug mga taong napalibot kanako,” he shared.
From June 30 to July 2, more than 2,000 tourism workers were inoculated, while 2,000 more were vaccinated from June 3 to 4.
Meanwhile, they will be taking a few days of rest but target to vaccinate an additional 5,000 tourism workers from July 7 to July 11.