DOT hoping to welcome foreign tourists in Philippines in 2021

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
DOT hoping to welcome foreign tourists in Philippines in 2021
This undated file photo shows immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The STAR / Rudy Santos, File

MANILA, Philippines  (UPDATED 9:45 p.m.) — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Wednesday said the tourism department is hopeful that the country would reopen to foreign tourists this year.

Despite this, Puyat said there is still no definite date for this.

“It’s hard to give a timeline,” Puyat said in a press conference during the reopening of Intramuros sites to public.

“We're hoping slowly. We’re hoping sana this year we will be able to open up to other countries not only confined to balikbayans,” she added.

Puyat cited that in December 7, the foreign tourist arrival was boosted after the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed balikbayans.

She said balikbayans are the third tourist source market.

However, with the confirmed cases of the coronavirus variant from United Kingdom, the IATF-MEID implemented a 14-day quarantine to tourists and also disallowed arrival from countries with the new variant.

In February, balikbayans were allowed entry to the country after the IATF-MEID lifted the travel ban on passengers coming from countries with reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant.

The IATF-MEID’s January 28 Resolution No. 97 allows them based on the following conditions:

  • Should have valid and existing visa at the time of entry, except for those qualified under the Balikbayan program under RA 6768; 
  • Should have pre-booked accommodation for at least seven nights in an accredited quarantine hotel/facility; 
  • Subject to COVID-19 testing at the quarantine hotel/facility on the sixth day from date of arrival; 
  • Subject to the maximum capacity of inbound passengers at the port and date of entry

The DOT welcomed this decision of the task force late January.

“We are happy that the borders are open again to our Balikbayans whose travel plans to rejoin their families in the country starting December 07, 2020 were curtailed with the travel ban on passengers from the new COVID variant countries. Now, they can replan their visits, notably as more local destinations have reopened,” she quipped.

Based on the arrival cards from the Bureau of Immigration, the country only received 1,482,535 foreign visitors from January to December 2020. Inbound tourists declined by 82.05% from the 8,260,913 international visitors in the same period in 2019.

Consequently, the total receipts generated from inbound tourism for the entire 2020 registered an estimated P82.24 billion, an 82.94% decrease in visitor spending from the previous year’s visitor receipts of P482.15 billion.

Puyat said she is also in favor of vaccination pass or passport, a documentation proving that one has been vaccinated against COVID-19. She said she is open to any measures that could hasten reopening of the country's tourism.

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