Philippine tourism leaders rush to ease travel procedures ahead of border reopening

Philippines is one of the countries in Asia benefitting from stronger community-based tourism demand and better air links

As the Philippines reopens to foreign tourists next week, its NTO is working overtime to smoothen confusing travel protocols that vary and change frequently among destinations.

The Department of Tourism is meeting with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units (LGUs) of tourist destinations to address the issue, said Howard Lance Uyking, tourism assistant secretary for branding and marketing communication.

Streamlining travel procedures is top priority now as the Philippines approaches Feb 10 border reopening to fully-vaccinated international tourists from 157 visa-free countries; Guyam Island, Siargao pictured

They have “to streamline the (travel) process and make it more convenient, especially for foreign tourists,” Uyking said in a Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) media briefing on January 31.

A bane even for domestic tourists, the absence of uniform travel protocols in the Philippines means that every destination has its own requirements and processes for accepting tourists, often changing as every destination’s Covid-19 infection level is reviewed every now and then.

Those interviewed by TTG Asia, including Ritchie Tuano, former president of Philippine Travel Agencies Association, see a glimmer of hope that the borders’ reopening “will start travel revival”.

Tuano said the removal of quarantine requirements and multiple PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers from over 150 visa-free required countries “reopen the opportunities for people to consider travelling again”.

Bernadette de Leon, general manager of Amiable Intertours, said the reopening announcement has yet to bring in any inbound enquiries, but “as this pandemic is being controlled, managed and carefully researched, the second quarter of 2022 is more promising”.

While travel budget “is a great consideration” for upcoming travel plans, De Leon remains optimistic “that travel movements will spin again”.

Tuano, one of eight members of Good Morning Tourismo consortium of travel agencies formed to stimulate safe travels, said the group have started receiving enquiries about local and international destinations.

Good Morning Tourismo also noted “the increased numbers of enquiries and requests for passport and visa applications and renewal, a hint that people are getting ready to travel as well”.

Tuano expects initial recovery to come from a surge primarily of balikbayans or Filipinos residing abroad who held back their homecoming for the last two years as well as foreigners from South-east Asia and other countries that do not have restrictions on traveling from the Philippines.

De Leon and Tuano both said it is important to observe safety protocols and have travellers constantly reminded of this to ensure that inbound can be sustained and avoid careless rise of infections and reinstatement of restrictions.

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