BY MA. STELLA F. ARNALDO
TRAVELERS from the United States continued to lead the total number of foreign tourists arriving in the Philippines.
Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed visitor arrivals in the country reached 215,831, already exceeding the number of total inbound travelers of some 164,000 in full-year 2021.
Of total inbound travelers from February 10 to April 9, balikbayans (homecoming Filipinos) accounted for some 41 percent at 87,509, while foreign tourists reached 128,322. The head count was based on data generated by the One Health Pass, an online platform created by government, where international travelers register themselves to ensure their seamless arrival into the country.
Of the total foreign tourists, arrivals from the US accounted for 36 percent or 46,558. They were followed by tourists from Canada at 10,368 (0.08 percent); the United Kingdom at 9,840 (7.7 percent); Australia at 9,285 (7.23 percent); and South Korea at 9,066 (7.1 percent).
In a news statement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat expressed satisfaction over the increasing number of tourists from abroad—a welcome development following the reopening of the Philippines’s borders and relaxation of its travel restrictions.
“The sustained influx of tourists in the Philippines is a good measure of the industry’s success in its preparations to welcome foreign tourists in the new normal,” she said. “The high vaccination rate among our tourism workers and the low Covid-19 cases around the country have helped restore the confidence of tourists overseas to visit the Philippines,” she added.
The Philippines has the easiest entry protocols in Asia, allowing fully vaccinated inbound travelers to submit a negative result from an antigen test administered and certified by a healthcare professional in a healthcare facility, laboratory, clinic, pharmacy, or other similar establishment, and taken within 24 hours of prior to departure of their port of origin.
Government has also removed quarantine procedures for fully vaccinated travelers. Even unvaccinated children need not quarantine as long as their parents are fully vaccinated.
Inbound travelers need only to present their Covid-19 vaccination certificates or state vaccination cards. At present, government has recognized the vaccination certificates of over 70 countries, the latest being Bangladesh, Mexico, Pakistan, and the Republic of Slovakia.
“This continued growth in tourist arrivals shall aid our stakeholders, as well as the economy, in recovering from the downturn caused by the pandemic lockdowns,” said Romulo Puyat. Close to 80 percent of the 5.7 million directly employed in the tourism sector were affected by the pandemic lockdowns.
The DOT chief recently travelled to Japan and South Korea to promote the Philippines’ relaxed entry procedures in a bid to woo their citizens to visit their favorite destinations in the country. Just this month, both countries removed their quarantine requirements for returning citizens, which had earlier been an obstacle to their travels abroad.
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the Philippines received 8.26 million foreign tourists, of which South Koreans topped the list of source markets at almost 2 million; followed by mainland China at 1.74 million; the US at 1.06 million; Japan at 682,788; and Taiwan at 327,273.
In 2021, visitor arrivals slumped by 89 percent to 163,879 from 1.48 million in 2020.
Image credits: NAIA Media Affairs Division