Philippines craves foreign tourists as entry restrictions ease

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MANILA, April 23 (Xinhua): Tom, a yachtsman on the island of Boracay in the central Philippines, found his life full of hope after seeing more and more foreign tourists arriving on the resort island famous for its powdery white sand beaches.

“The pandemic is very difficult for us, but now Boracay (tourism) is entering the recovery stage. We expect many tourists from different countries to come here for vacation,” Tom told Xinhua.

As a key economic driver, the tourism industry’s contribution to the Philippines’ gross domestic product stood at 12.7% in 2019, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. The pandemic has hit the tourism sector in the Philippines hard, forcing hotels and airlines to lay off staff. Nearly 1.1 million workers have been affected in the tourism industry across the country.

Effective April 1, the Philippines reverted to pre-pandemic entry rules for fully vaccinated foreign nationals from visa-required countries. The relaxed rules have opened up the country for all travelers, including tourists, to enter the Southeast Asian country known for its world-class white sand beaches, crystal clear azure sea water and resorts. dive.

Boracay Island remains the country’s top tourist attraction. According to the local tourism board, the island recorded more than 150,000 tourist arrivals in March, almost the monthly level before the pandemic in 2019.

The island’s resorts, restaurants and yacht charters are now fully operational and sunny beaches await foreign visitors.

James, a British beach lover, is more than happy to choose Boracay Island as his vacation destination. “Being on vacation again is a great feeling. It’s my first time to the Philippines and it won’t be the last,” he said.

According to the Philippines Department of Tourism, 200,000 foreign tourist arrivals have reached the archipelago as of April 7 in nearly two months since the country began easing travel restrictions for international travelers.

Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the steady influx of tourists to the country is a good sign of the sector’s success in preparing to welcome foreign tourists into the new normal. “This continued growth will help our stakeholders, as well as the economy, recover from the effects caused by the pandemic,” she added.

His words were echoed by the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) latest economic impact report, which is released at the WTTC summit in the Philippine capital on Thursday.

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

However, as tourism in the Philippines rebounds, local authorities are reminding travelers to follow basic health protocols, such as wearing a face mask, maintaining a safe distance, or avoiding crowds. crowds.

Felix Delos Santos, head of the tourism board in the Malay town of Boracay Island, said almost all residents and tourism workers on the island had been fully vaccinated.

He said visitors must submit health information declarations and vaccination cards online before entering the island to ensure safety. Additionally, resorts and restaurants across the island have hired security guards to remind visitors to follow basic health protocols.

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

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

Pio Sanchez, manager of the El Nido Lagen resort, said safety and sustainability would be key drivers for their business progress.

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

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