DOT to adopt Covid-19 digital travel pass

·4 min read

TOURISM players in Cebu are keen on supporting initiatives that would win back tourists.

One of these is the adoption of a Covid-19 digital travel pass.

Early this month, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said it is considering the adoption of a Covid-19 digital travel pass as a requirement for visitors to adhere to global travel standards as part of preparations for the safe resumption of international travel.

This move, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, is “parallel with the steps undertaken by other countries that have successfully relaxed borders to visitors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.”

She raised this possibility during a meeting with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and local tourism industry leaders to explore the adoption of the IATA Travel Pass technology solutions for passengers visiting the Philippines.

“The DOT recognizes the challenges that the country is currently facing due to the pandemic. The agency’s work is centered on the gradual and careful reopening of tourism destinations to support livelihoods, with health and safety as our top priority. Albeit on its testing stage, the IATA Travel Pass, which offers safe and convenient travel, has so far been helpful to airlines that have adopted it for trial,” Puyat said.

The tourism chief said the Travel Pass developed by IATA, the trade association for passenger and cargo airlines worldwide, offers a global and standardized solution that will enable the validation and authentication of different country regulations regarding Covid-19 passenger travel requirements.

“This is a positive move. No matter how great the desire to travel, safety, protection from infection and wellness in the destination are still foremost in the minds of travelers,” said Cebu Alliance of Tour Operation Specialists president Alice Queblatin.

“Requiring a Covid-19 digital pass can raise the level of confidence of travelers to favor a country that is safe, seriously concerned on the health of its residents and visitors. Almost all countries around the world require this protocol,” she added.

Stephanie Villahermosa of Divaishnavi Travel & Tours Inc. also expressed the same sentiment.

“It’s a great move since it is now aligned to the IATA Travel Pass which is adopted internationally by most countries and airlines for the seamless movement of travel,” she said.

Singapore, one Asia’s hubs in trade and tourism, announced it will become one of the first countries to adopt the initiative. It said it will accept the IATA mobile travel pass for pre-departure checks starting May.

As of April 4, over 20 airlines and airline groups have adopted the IATA Travel Pass on a trial basis.

Features

The IATA Travel Pass has four open-sourced and interoperable modules which can be combined to achieve an end-to-end solution. The modules are the following:

- A Travel Pass App that will enable passengers to create a digital passport, verify their tests or vaccinations with regulatory authorities, and submit requirements such as test results or vaccination certificates to facilitate travel;

- A Registry of Health Requirements where passengers can get information on travel, testing and vaccination requirements;

- A Registry of Testing/Vaccination Centers which enables passengers to find Covid-19 testing centers and laboratories at their departure or arrival locations; and

- A Lab App that will allow authorized Covid-19 testing centers and laboratories to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers.

“Once the country’s adoption of the IATA Travel Pass is put into motion, the DOT hopes to safely reopen our tourist destinations to international visitors and revive the tourism industry as a whole. But this will be done only when the time is right,” Puyat added.

In December 2020, Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei proposed the adoption of a Covid-19 passport as an essential tool in safely reopening the country to the world.

He said the implementation could be done through government-to-government agreements.

Such proposal was immediately backed by the DOT.

“The DOT supports the suggestion of Mr. Lance Gokongwei to come up with a global Covid-19 passport to facilitate international cross border travel with stringent health and safety measures in place,” said Puyat.

The IATA consists of 290 airlines or 82 percent of the world’s total commercial air traffic. Its members from the Philippines are Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines. (KOC)