The Department of Tourism warned over the weekend about losing P2.51 billion in industry revenues if the government fails to address the bottlenecks in visa processing.
“Airlines and charter operators have already approached us expressing grave concern of the present limitations. According to them, they may not be able to increase the flight frequencies that they are very much prepared to resume due to low passenger numbers and airfares and travel packages may become too expensive and therefore, not competitive,” said Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco.
The DOT said the limited access could dampen interest in the Philippines despite an anticipated surge in foreign visitors during the dry season.
Frasco said while the tourism industry recorded several achievements last year, there were still bottlenecks that could prevent the country from fully unlocking the potential of international tourism.
The country concluded 2022 with 2.65 million international tourist arrivals, surpassing the target of 1.7 million.
The DOT met with government agencies last week to discuss visa concerns for key and strategic tourism markets in the hope of finding solutions affecting the flow of entry of international tourists.
“For this reason, our President issued the directive to various government agencies to explore how the bottlenecks to travel into the country may be addressed. He indicated that one of the ways by which travel into the Philippines may be fully opened up especially to certain important markets, we must explore the provision of electronic visas,” Frasco said.
She said government agencies should explore the provision of e-visas to Chinese and Indian nationals.
The DOT noted that 58 percent of the Indian visitors are repeat travelers, thus the need to continue the efforts to sustain and increase their entry by exploring travel mechanisms, primarily an e-visa system, that would make travel seamless.
India emerged from being an opportunity market for the Philippines to an important source of foreign visitors.
“We are the only country that presently does not provide the convenient electronic visa for Indian nationals. This is a huge market that the Philippines has yet to explore,” Frasco said.
China ranked as the second largest source of inbound tourists, hitting more than 1.7 million arrivals in 2019 and about P2.33 billion in terms of tourism receipts.
The Philippine Embassy in China processed over 1.5 million visas for the Chinese market averaging 508 to 2,704 visas per day in 2019. However, airlines raised concerns on Philippine consular office limiting visa processing to an average of 60 to 100.
“Of our low target of half a million Chinese coming into the Philippines, we would need to issue 1,704 visas per day. If we are to target the medium scenario of a million Chinese into the country, then we would need to issue 3,409 visas per day. If we are to target two million Chinese coming to the Philippines and which is the desired target of the DOT, then we would need 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,” Frasco said.