THE SERVICES sector in Iloilo, particularly hotels and restaurants, are seeing minimal impact from the novel coronavirus (nCoV) threat as the industry relies more on the local travel market. The lloilo Hotel, Restaurants & Resorts Association (IHRRA) said booking cancellations in the metro due mainly to cancelled flights is about 10%. “So far, we are not experiencing that much amount of cancellations, the cancellations remained minimal,” IHRRA spokesperson Happy C. Abenir said. IHRRA is composed of 78 members based in Iloilo City and neighboring towns. “We are not really dependent on foreign tourists. We are catering to a number of local tourism, people who come here to take care of business, do investments and check the place out,” she said. The entire Iloilo province recorded 1.24 million tourists in 2018, of which over 90% were local travelers.

At the same time, the Iloilo provincial and city governments, along with the local offices of national agencies, have set measures to prevent and respond to nCoV cases. Among these steps is the creation of a task force that will focus on monitoring hotels and restaurants in the city. “We want to focus on the hotels and restaurants so that we can perform contact tracing afterward once there are suspected cases of 2019-nCoV,” Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said on Monday. Ms. Abenir said the IHRRA members have also committed to implement protocols on handling guests, especially those coming from countries with confirmed nCoV cases. “We have adapted and agreed on handling guests who have symptoms of fever, cough, and not feeling well. First, we will get in touch with the DoH (Department of Health), City Health Office. Then they will send a team with a doctor and a nurse to monitor and check the patient and they will make certain recommendations,” she said. Governor Arthur R. Defensor Jr., meanwhile, has also ordered the setting up of an isolation room at the Dr. Ricardo Y. Ladrido Memorial District Hospital, while Iloilo City will use the La Paz Maternity and Reproductive Health Clinic.

Meanwhile, Mr. Treñas has ordered the postponement of the Iloilo-Guimaras Paraw Regatta Festival and other big events in the city for February. “Upon consultation with the Department of Health-Region 6, City Health Office, and the organizer, Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI), we decided to postpone the festival as a precautionary measure against nCov,” he announced Wednesday. The annual festival, with the main events set this year on Feb. 23-March 1, will be moved to a later date. The Paraw Regatta, which celebrates the Visayan double outrigger boat, is considered the oldest sailing event in Asia and the biggest in the Philippines. As of Feb. 4, the Iloilo City has recorded two persons under investigation for nCoV. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo