Philippines’ welcome plans for China are in motion

The whole of Luzon goes into lockdown; Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse in Batanes province pictured

The Philippines has been preparing for the influx of Chinese tourists long before China announced its reopening next month.

Preparations cover three main areas: negotiations to resume commercial and charter flights; e-visa platform to expedite visa application processes; and the launch of cruise tourism in February 2023.

The Philippines will improve access for Chinese travellers; Mahatao Tayid Lighthouse in Batanes pictured

The Department of Tourism (DOT) is “in close coordination with tourism attaches in Beijing and Shanghai to ensure that we continue the efforts of resuming flights both commercial and chartered,” said tourism secretary Christina Garcia Frasco in a December 19 press briefing.

So far, Philippine Airlines (PAL) has announced resuming services between Manila and Xiamen starting January 13 with a weekly flight, but “will build up frequencies over time, in line with the easing of restrictions and applicable government authorisations”.

PAL had previously served five Chinese cities from Manila – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Quanzhou (Jinjiang) – prior to the pandemic. It continued to operate several regular charter flights during the pandemic.

The DOT has also proposed to the Department of Foreign Affairs the provision of e-visa platform in certain key source markets including China and India to expedite visa and other travel requirements into the Philippines.

Verna Buensuceso, DOT assistant secretary for product and market development and officer-in-charge – undersecretary, tourism development, explained: “E-visa is something we have pushed and would like to prioritise in (source) markets that have big groups, hopefully China and India. These are areas we have very limited foreign posts and it will really facilitate the processing if we have an e-visa system.”

Buensuceso said they are also looking at other possibilities, such as establishing a system for expediting group visas.

By February next year, cruise tourism will be launched with at least 156 ports of call across 40 island destinations, a new product for inbound, including Chinese tourists, Frasco said.

She emphasised that China, once the country’s second biggest inbound market, “is still very much on the horizon” considering that at some point it provided over 1.2 million tourists into the Philippines. As such, efforts towards resuming Chinese arrivals have not stopped.

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