MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is hoping the Philippines could fully reopen its doors to more foreign tourists by April of this year.
Currently, only fully vaccinated foreign leisure travelers from visa-free countries are allowed to enter the Philippines.
“Right now, (the Philippines is) only for 157 visa-free countries but we are hoping that by April, we will be open to all foreigners,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in an ANC interview Thursday.
She said the recommendation to limit leisure travelers for visa-free countries, an easing of restriction that started last February 10, came from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“They wanted ‘yong pa-unti-unti muna (gradual), so we started with the 157 visa-free countries. And then they told us that they are ready to accept also kasi (because) they have to open the consular services all over the world, so we hope that that will be approved and we will be able to accept by April,” she said.
From February 10 to March 8, the DOT has recorded a total of 73,178 tourists, mostly from South Korea, the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Vietnam, and Japan.
The official said these figures are not high compared to the pre-pandemic level but they were happy about the unexpected turn of events since projections suggest that arrivals would pick up in June or during the winter months.
“It’s not big compared to the pre-pandemic levels because pre-pandemic levels, we had about 8.28 million tourist arrivals for the whole year but we were pleasantly surprised,” she said.