MANILA - More than 7,000 fully-vaccinated foreign travelers have arrived in the country after it reopened last Thursday, the Department of Tourism said Monday.
Some 7,051 travelers, of which 45 percent were Filipinos with foreign passports, arrived from Thursday to Sunday, according to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
The foreign tourists came from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Japan, and South Korea among others, she said.
"A lot were to be reunited with their families. May mga asawa dito na Filipina (they have Filipina spouses here). Some said 'I haven't seen my fiancé for 18 months and I'm excited to see her, I came home because I want to help the typhoon victims,'" she told ANC's Headstart.
"Meron din nagsabi na (There were some who said) 'I want to build homes for the typhoon victims.' I saw a family from Bulgaria, they wanted to vlog...A lot were coming here because they wanted to come here for business."
Only a new variant of concern could derail the country's reopening to international travelers, Romulo-Puyat said.
"I hope tuloy-tuloy na ito, wag sana magkaroon ng bagong variant of concern, but of course nobody can predict that. That’s the only thing I can see na (that) will stop everything, if there’s a new variant of concern identified by the WHO (World Health Organization)," she said.
(I hope it will continue and there won't be a new variant of concern, but of course nobody can predict that.)
"Without it tuloy-tuloy na ito (this will continue). We’re vaccinated, we're getting our booster shots."
The agency has inoculated some 92 percent of tourism workers nationwide against the coronavirus, while some tourist destinations such as Boracay, Baguio City have 100 percent vaccination rate and have begun administering booster shots, Romulo-Puyat said.
The DOT chief said she wants all tourism workers to be fully vaccinated and boosted before she leaves office.
"Mas masaya sila sa bakuna kesa sa ayuda. This means kasi malapit na kami magbukas, this means we’re safe," she said.
(They're happier being given vaccines than assistance. For them this means we'll reopen soon, this means we’re safe.)
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 has also given doses for children ages 5 to 11, Romulo-Puyat added.
"Even a foreigner can get his booster shot for free. Now we have so much vaccines we’re ready to be vaccinated," she said.
Romulo-Puyat said she does not know yet what she would do when she steps down from office after the May elections.
"I take it a day at a time, ang dami pang problema now. Right now I keep teasing my friends...magiging road manager na lang ako ng BTS," she said.
(I take it a day at a time,there are still so many problems. Right now I keep teasing my friends...I will just be a road manager for BTS.)
"It's a joke, it just means I really don't know. I've been in government for 32 years already, I really don't know but nakakapagod no (It's tiring). I pray at night thinking God, binigyan mo ko ng closure ng Boracay, binigyan mo ko pandemic (you really gave me Boracay closure, the pandemic)."
The DOT chief said she was happy that she was able to reopen the country's tourism before she leaves office.
"Akala ko lalakad lang ako by the beach, or promote (tourist destinations) but challenges after challenges. But ang maganda naman happy ang ending natin," she said.
(I thought as tourism chief I was only going to walk by the beach or promote but there were challenges after challenges. But the good thing is there was a happy ending.)