Foreign arrivals plunge to 9-month low in April

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Inbound arrivals in April fell to a nine-month low of 6,036 as Metro Manila’s revert to a strict lockdown drastically reduced the number of visitors entering the country.

Based on data obtained by The STAR, arrivals reached 6,036 in April, the lowest in nine months since the 5,518 arrivals in July 2020, according to data from the Department of Tourism (DOT).

The latest figure, however, was a six-fold jump from just 948 during the same month last year – when government first restricted the entry of all passengers except for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

By origin, at least one in every four visitors in April came from either the US or Japan. The US held the top rank among the source markets with 911 arrivals for the month of April. Japan remained in second place with 824 arrivals.

Rounding up the leading sources of passengers for the month are: Turkey, (331), United Arab Emirates, (313), India (231).

More than 13 percent of the inbound travelers said they entered the country for a holiday or vacation stay despite a government ban on leisure travel in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, collectively known as NCR Plus.

More than nine percent went to the Philippines for a business trip, while around four percent paid their friends and relatives a visit.

About 75 percent of the arrivals landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while the Clark International Airport and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport accounted for the remainder, as airports in Palawan, Kalibo, Iloilo and Davao remain shut on government order.

NCR Plus was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 11, and shifted to modified ECQ from April 12 to May 14. At that time, the government extended its travel ban on foreign nationals, with a few exceptions, as part of efforts to arrest a recent surge in COVID-19 infections.

Policymakers are now looking at options on how to resume international travel in the country. The DOT heads a small working group with the Department of Foreign Affairs to assess how the government can set up a green lane that will facilitate the entry of vaccinated foreigners.

Should the green lane materialize, quarantine period for vaccinated OFWs and foreign tourists will be cut to seven days, from 14 days at present.

Last year, arrivals in the Philippines declined by more than 82 percent to 1.48 million, from 8.26 million in 2019 to the detriment of tourism stakeholders who rely on travel for their livelihood.

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