MANILA—The Philippines will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers beginning Thursday in a bid to drive recovery for the country's hard-hit tourism industry, officials said.
In a Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual forum with key stakeholders Tuesday, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said these are "exciting times" for Philippine tourism as the country begins its "next chapter in the road to recovery."
“Allowing the entry of these international travelers is a welcome development that will lead to growth in the travel and tourism sector, the restoration of lost jobs, the generation of much needed revenue for tourism-related enterprises, tourism communities and the government, plus many other benefits that will be felt by the entire tourism value chain,” she said.
The government's pandemic task force approved in late January the Department of Tourism's proposal to allow the entry of fully vaccinated tourists coming from 157 countries that have visa-free arrangements with the Philippines.
The task force also scrapped the color-coded classification system of countries based on their COVID-19 status as part of plans to accelerate the recovery of the tourism industry.
Returning overseas Filipinos and foreign tourists are excluded from the 5,000-passenger arrivals cap set by the Department of Transportation.
Government figures as of Feb. 4 showed that 92.51 percent or 317,892 out of 349, 534 tourism workers had received their COVID-19 vaccines.
Top tourist sites with 100 percent vaccination rate among its tourism workers include Baguio City, Aurora, Coron, El Nido and San Vicente in Palawan, Puerto Princesa City, and Camiguin Island.
The agency is also facilitating the roll-out of booster shots for eligible tourism workers.
As per region, Metro Manila had the highest vaccination rate for tourism workers with 99.91 percent, the tourism chief said.
Meanwhile, as of Feb. 7, there is a 68 percent or 37,348 occupied rooms in quarantine facilities consisting of 418 hotels operating with 55,150 rooms.
These hotels cater to the unvaccinated travelers completing their quarantine period, long staying guests, OFWs ready for departure, and BPO employees.
Some 76 quarantine hotels have submitted a letter of intent to shift to regular hotels and cater to tourists.
“I am excited about the prospects of a healthy rebound in tourism for a good number of reasons: the high vaccination rate among our tourism workers, the public health safeguards and guidelines that have been put in place, and the number of new tourism circuits that have been developed,” Puyat said.