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Reforms to visa policies to allow more Chinese and Indian tourists

In order to facilitate entrance for tourist source markets, primarily India and China, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is collaborating with other governmental organizations.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco discussed the need for “visa reforms” to alleviate tourism bottlenecks with the heads of the Bureau of Immigration, Departments of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Information and Communications Technology on Friday at a high-level convergence conference.

She stated that government organizations must investigate offering electronic visas (eVisa) to its citizens, citing China and India’s potential to attract more tourists.

According to DOT data, at least 58 percent of all Indian visitors were return visitors; as a result, efforts must be made to maintain and enhance their access.

The DOT added that India, which ranked ninth among the top foreign visitors in 2022 with 51,542, has transformed from being a market opportunity for the Philippines into a significant market source.

“We are the only nation that does not now offer Indian nationals the easy electronic visa. “The Philippines has yet to fully tap into this enormous market,” Frasco remarked at the gathering, which was hosted at a hotel in Makati City.

As Indian tourists traveling to Southeast Asia “could potentially be looking at a new destination,” Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran concurred that now is a “very opportune” time for Manila to simplify visa requirements for its nations.

In contrast, China continues to be a sought-after market for the Philippines, which welcomed more than 1.7 million Chinese tourists before the outbreak.

Frasco reported that Philippine consular offices in China have issued recommendations “limiting the acceptance of visa applications per day from only around 60 to 100,” citing reports from airlines.

In contrast, before the epidemic, China issued an average of 508 to as many as 2,704 Philippine visas daily.

“In order to meet our modest goal of 500,000 Chinese visitors to the Philippines, we would need to grant 1,704 visas per day. We would need to grant 3, 409 visas per day if we were to aim for the middle scenario of a million Chinese entering the country, Frasco added.

“If we are to issue 6,818 visas per day for a total of 1.8 million visas in a year, which is not too far off from the 1.5 million issued in 2019, we would need to target two million Chinese coming to the Philippines and which is the desired target of the Department of Tourism,” she continued.

The DOT emphasized that, given the 2019 data showing that China has the biggest number of outbound visitors in the globe with 160 million Chinese nationals traveling to various nations, China’s sizeable population translates to tremendous opportunities for the Philippines.

Time is of significance for the Philippines to ensure that the simplicity with which Chinese nationals can enter the Philippines can be granted, she added, as Chinese outbound travel would surpass 2019 levels by 2024.

If the problems with acquiring visas are not resolved right once, Frasco warned that income losses could reach USD 2.51 billion.

“Airlines and charter operators have already contacted us to voice their serious concerns about the current restrictions. They claim that due to low passenger numbers, they may not be able to increase the flight frequencies that they are ready to resume, and that this could make airfares and vacation packages uncompetitive.

tourist cruises and education

The DOT also advocated for the industry of English as a Second Language (ESL) to exempt qualified students from applying for Special Study Permits and to simplify the procedural required for Waiver of Exclusion Grounds.

Additionally, in light of the return of cruise tourism, it requested that interested agencies examine the draft and provide final feedback for finalization as well as the digitalization of the platform and creation of an e-Landing Permit.

According to research firm Bonard, based in Austria, the Philippines is currently the fifth-largest ESL provider in the world, with the island province of Cebu accounting for about 70% of the nation’s total ESL industry. Cebu serves students from China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, as well as emerging markets like Mongolia, Thailand, West Asia, and Russia.

Over 117,000 passengers are expected at 139 ports of call for cruise tourism in the country in 2023 alone.

backing for reforms

The authorities, on the other hand, promised to look into the situation and voiced their support for the adjustments that were being proposed for the nation’s special markets while emphasizing the need to “balance legal requirements” in accordance with the law.

The support of the Department of Tourism and the Department of Foreign Affairs will undoubtedly be one of the priorities of the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology), according to DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy.

DFA Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto Jr. stated that they will review the suggestion and provide a prompt response.

Due to the prior spike of Covid-19 cases in China, a limit was placed on the number of visas that could be issued to Chinese visitors.

In addition, the following individuals were present: BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco; DFA Executive Director Christian De Jesus and Director Leilano Feliciano; DOT Undersecretary Shahlimar Hofer Tamano; OIC-Undersecretary Verna Buensuceso; Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano IV; Undersecretaries Brigido Dulay and Jose Cadiz Jr.; and Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano IV.

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