MANILA: Philippine officials on Monday said the country has welcomed nearly 22,000 international travelers since reopening, with hopes this trend will accelerate the revival of a tourism industry decimated by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
The Southeast Asian country reopened to fully vaccinated, COVID-negative foreign tourists on Feb. 10 after nearly two years of pandemic-related border closures.
By Feb. 19, government data shows that 21,974 international visitors have arrived, more than half of whom are foreign tourists, while the rest are returning Filipinos. Most had come from the US, followed by Canada and the UK.
“The recent influx of tourists reflects … enthusiasm towards visiting our country, which in turn will accelerate the revival of our tourism industry,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said.
Home to white sandy beaches, famous diving spots, lively entertainment, diverse cultural heritage and unique wildlife, the Philippines’ economy is dependent on tourism, which in 2019 generated 2.51 trillion pesos ($50 billion), contributing nearly 13 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, most tourism destinations in the country were forced to shut down, dealing a major blow to the sector. Revenues from tourism plummeted to 973 billion pesos, with foreign arrivals slumping 82 percent.
Officials say international travelers are still drawn to the Philippines’ major tourist attractions, such as Boracay, Palawan, and Bohol.
Puyat expressed confidence that the reopened borders will not only boost the tourism sector, but also lead to a stronger economic recovery in 2022.
The Philippines currently recognizes COVID-19 vaccination certificates from 64 countries, with eight new additions to the list — including Egypt, Greece, and Uruguay — announced on Monday.
“We look forward to opening our doors to guests from all over the world, but of course, with all the necessary health and safety protocols in place,” Puyat said.
Visitors arriving in the Philippines must present proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours before departure, and travel insurance for COVID-19 treatment costs, with a minimum coverage of $35,000 for the duration of their stay in the Philippines.