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Philippines yearns for foreign tourists as entry restrictions ease

Boracay island remains the top tourist attraction in the country. Picture: AP

Boracay island remains the top tourist attraction in the country. Picture: AP

Published Apr 22, 2022

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by Xinhua writer Yan Jie

Manila - Tom, a yacht worker on Boracay island in central Philippines, has found his life full of hope after seeing more foreign tourist arrivals on the resort island famous for powdery white-sand beaches.

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“The pandemic is very difficult for us, but now the (tourism of) Boracay is going into the recovery stage. We expect a lot of tourists coming from different countries to come here for vacations,” Tom told Xinhua.

As a key economic driver, the tourism industry's contribution to the Philippines' gross domestic product stood at 12.7 percent in 2019, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The pandemic has badly hit the tourism sector in the Philippines, forcing hotels and airlines to lay off staff. Almost 1.1 million workers were affected in the industry across the country.

From April 1, the Philippines reverted to pre-pandemic entry rules for fully vaccinated foreign nationals from visa-required countries. The relaxed rules opened the country to all travellers, including tourists, to enter the South-east Asian country known for world-class white-sand beaches, crystal clear azure seawater and diving resorts.

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Boracay island remains the top tourist attraction in the country. According to the local tourism office, the island logged over 150 000 tourist arrivals in March, almost the pre-pandemic monthly level in 2019.

Resorts, restaurants and yachts on the island are now fully operational, and beaches with sunshine await foreign visitors.

James, a beach-lover from Britain, is more than happy to choose Boracay island as his vacation destination.

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“To be on holiday again is a great feeling. It is my first time in the Philippines, and it will not be my last,” he said.

According to the Philippines' Department of Tourism, 200 000 foreign tourists have reached the archipelago as of April 7 in nearly two months since the country began to ease travel restrictions for international travellers.

Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the sustained influx of tourists in the country is a good sign of the sector's success in its preparation to welcome foreign tourists in the new normal.

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“This continued growth shall aid our stakeholders, as well as the economy, in recovering from the effects caused by the pandemic,” she added.

Her words were echoed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)'s latest economic impact report, which was released on Thursday during the WTTC summit in the Philippine capital.

“The travel and tourism sector will be a driving force of the global economic recovery from the two-year pandemic,” the report said.

However, as the Philippines' tourism enters recovery, the local authorities remind travellers to adhere to basic health protocols, such as wearing a face mask, keeping a safe distance, or avoiding crowds.

Felix Delos Santos, chief of the tourism office of Malay city on the Boracay island, said almost all the island's residents and tourism workers have been fully vaccinated.

He said visitors need to submit health information declarations and vaccination cards online before entering the island to ensure safety. Moreover, resorts and restaurants on the island hired safety officers to remind visitors to observe basic health protocols.

“We followed the national (pandemic prevention) policies. The priority (of our work) is on the health and safety of our tourists,” Delos Santos said.

El Nido in Palawan province, renowned for its diverse collection of coral reefs and unparalleled pristine waters, has also seen a slow but steady increase of foreign tourists since April.

Pio Sanchez, manager of El Nido Lagen island resort, said safety and sustainability would be key drivers for their business to move forward.

“We require all our guests to follow the minimum health protocols, including wearing face masks whenever they are in public areas. At the same time, we have offered hand sanitizers in specific areas of the resort, and we do regular testing for our staff to make sure everyone is in good condition,” Sanchez added.

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