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Visas on arrival for Chinese to lift PHL tourism

THE Duterte administration’s new program allowing Chinese citizens to get visas on arrival is seen lifting the number of foreign visitor arrivals in the Philippines.

In a news statement, the Department of Tourism (DOT) also said the visa-on-arrival program may catapult China as a top source market of tourists.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon  T.  Teo added that this visa program would also attract more Chinese investors to the Philippines. “We also believe this will serve as an incentive to Chinese guests who may be prospective investors wanting to prove that the country is not only a safe haven for tourists, but also a lucrative business location.”

As this developed, the DOT chief recently committed to lawmakers that the agency will mount an “all-out promotion campaign” to attract more foreign visitors to the Philippines.

During a congressional hearing on the DOT’s budget for 2018 on August 9, legislators said they would approve a P1-billion marketing fund to boost the agency’s promotional efforts abroad.

“Amid setbacks and mounting challenges, tourist arrivals [in the first half of the year] are way up. Beefing up the DOT’s war chest [with a P1-billion marketing fund] would go a long way in boosting our branding campaign that will be at par with those of our Asian neighbors,” Teo stressed.

The DOT has asked Congress to approve a P3.38-billion budget for 2018, to be able increase foreign visitor arrivals to 7.4 million for said year.  Foreign visitor receipts in 2018 are targeted to rise to P564 billion in 2018.

Meanwhile, Teo expressed her appreciation to the Department of Justice for granting the DOT’s long-standing proposal to ease the visa rules and requirements for key tourist markets, especially China. She admitted to the BusinessMirror, however, that the visa-on-arrival program was not reciprocal for Filipinos, who still have to follow the visa requirements for visiting China.

This year about 6.5 million foreign tourists are targeted to arrive in the Philippines, but with the Beijing government’s commitment to send 1 million tourists to the country, this number is projected to reach some 7 million.

Data from the DOT showed arrivals from China increased by 33.4 percent to 454,962 in the first half of 2017. Chinese arrivals accounted for some 13.6 percent of the total foreign tourists which arrived in the country amounting to some 2.98 million.

“In the face of challenges, the country continued to receive a growing influx of tourists from across the globe, desiring to see our world-class destinations and experience the renowned Filipino hospitality,”  Teo said.

Following President Duterte’s state visit to China in October 2016 and the lifting of Beijing’s travel restrictions to the Philippines, Chinese visitor arrivals surged by some 38 percent to 675,663 by year-end.

“Accommodating our visiting Chinese friends with a visa grant upon arrival will only help keep the speedy momentum going for Chinese arrivals into the country,” Teo added.

“In welcoming our Chinese visitors with open arms, we also share the enthusiasm of the DOJ, through the Bureau of Immigration, to further improve bilateral relations with Beijing,” she said.

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