DOT seeks visas on arrival for Indian tourists

ASIAN tourists still comprised the bulk of visitor arrivals in the Philippines from January to July 2017, data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) show.

An official DOT report obtained by the BusinessMirror said, “countries from Asia still hold the biggest market share by delivering 60.88 percent of the total visitor volume”, or some 2.4 million of the total tourist arrivals of 3.92 million for the seven-month period.

East Asian markets (China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Macau and Taiwan) accounted for 51.8 percent, or 2.03 million, of the total volume; those from the Asean (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) supplied 7.1 percent, or 279,732; and those from South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) contributed 77,458 arrivals.

A total of 732,664 arrived from North America and South America, representing an 18.7-percent share of total inbound tourists, while
421,144 (or 10.7 percent of total) came from Europe. There were 193,560 visitors from Australasia/Pacific (Australia, Guam, Nauru, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea).

In an interview with Undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning Benito C. Bengzon Jr., he said the agency is looking for more “opportunity markets” which it can nurture. He stressed though, due to limited resources of the government, the DOT has to be very selective in recommending a new destination where it can promote the Philippines heavily. “So before we move to a new opportunity market, we have to be able to get the numbers up to a comfortable level, which will make it viable for the partners from the private sector to conduct business with their counterparts in those markets.”

As an example, he pointed to India, which the DOT projects will reach 100,000 arrivals by the end of 2017. “So the private sector from the Philippines has developed their network in the main cities in India, and second-tier cities and even third-tier cities. The fact that we’re doing Hyderabad, Chennai, Calcutta, etc. is already an indication there is business to generate.”

He said the DOT has written the Department of Justice (DOJ) anew “for them to seriously consider visa-on-arrivals for Indian travelers. This comes after the DOJ and the BI [Bureau of Immigration], fortunately for us, agreed to relax the visa requirements for China.” The BI recently announced the visa-on-arrival program for “qualified” Chinese tourists. This covers tour groups organized by DOT-accredited tour operators; businessmen endorsed by local and foreign chambers of commerce, as well as government agencies; athletes; and delegates to conventions and exhibits.

Aside from India, the DOT sees an opportunity in nurturing Saudi Arabia, Bengzon said. “Maybe in the same category as Russia and India [whose arrivals have] grown above the curve, is Saudi Arabia, which is currently about 60,000 to 70,000 arrivals. With the right promotions mix, we can bump it up to 100,000.” Arrivals from Saudi Arabia grew by 4.25 percent to 32,783 in January to July 2017.

Meanwhile, the DOT report showed that South Korea continued to top the list of source markets with arrivals reaching 927,228 in the first seven months of the year, an increase of 11.8 percent from the same period last year. This was followed by the United States, with 599,480 arrivals, up by 13.3 percent; China with 545,725 (+29.4 percent); Japan with 341,457 (+11.9 percent); Australia with 150,977 (+3.8 percent); Taiwan with 147,156 (+8.4 percent); Canada with 123,402 (+18.6 percent); the United Kingdom with 110,903 (+6.79 percent); and India with 54,300 (+20.2 percent).

The DOT recorded dips, however, in three traditional source markets: visitor arrivals from Singapore fell by some 8 percent to 97,742; Malaysia was down 1.75 percent to 82,843; and Hong Kong dropped 8.3 percent to 65,463.