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Philippines ready to welcome fully vaxxed foreign tourists

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By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

MANILA – The country’s tourism industry is ready to welcome fully vaccinated international travelers on February 10, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the sector had been preparing for this development since the borders closed in 2020.

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Two years into the pandemic, she added that most tourism workers had received vaccination against the coronavirus.

In a text message, Secretary Puyat said that “while this will be the first time the Philippines is opening its doors for foreign leisure travelers since the start of the pandemic, the tourism industry has prepared for this development for close to two years.” 

“We look forward to welcoming our foreign visitors once again, especially with Metro Manila, the country’s main international gateway, placed under Alert Level 2,” Puyat added.

The official added that health and safety protocols would remain in place to prevent the transmission of the virus.

“Tourism workers have been vaccinated, and the observance of health and safety protocols at every destination remains to be a priority. The DOT will be focusing its efforts on the visa-free countries under EO 408 that are identified as our key, strategic, and opportunity markets,” Puyat said.

The Philippines will allow fully vaccinated international tourists from visa-free countries, beginning February 10. However, they need to present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours before departure from the country of origin.

Currently, 157 countries enjoy visa-free entry privileges to the Philippines, including some of its top tourist markets such as Australia, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States and Germany.

When it comes to getting the destinations ready, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) chief-operating-officer Ma. Anthonette Velasco-Allones last Monday said the country has established 79 tourism circuits, consisting of travel-ready places in different regions.

“It is safe to say that they are ready. They are more than ready,” Velasco-Allones said. She added that the TPB is also working with the DOT-National Capital Region to “refresh” visitor arrival areas in Metro Manila.

The government is also eyeing to streamline travel rules in destinations further to make travel more convenient, especially for foreign tourists.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Howard Lance Uyking said the DOT, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and local government units would be meeting to discuss the subject.

Optimistic

With the Philippines finally reopening its gates to leisure travelers, Velasco-Allones expressed optimism about the Philippines’ tourism industry in 2022.

“Our outlook for the tourism industry in 2022 is actually quite optimistic. Imagine the first major global summit will happen in the Philippines in April,” she said, referring to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit.

She added that the government would continue promoting and developing the Philippines as a top international MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions) destination.

“The DOT and TPB teams are actually preparing for the MICE global campaign to be formally launched this year, wala tayong (we don’t have this) global MICE campaign in the past, so this is something that is new,” she said.

Aside from the WTTC Global Summit, one of the upcoming events is the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

“Our MICE team is also in talks with several professional associations like medical groups, wellness groups because there are professional and corporate events already in our calendar,” Velasco-Allones said. (PNA)


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