DOT eyes more e-visas for tourists from China, India
MANILA, Philippines — The government is eyeing visa reforms to ease the entry of international tourists, particularly Chinese and Indian nationals.
Citing the potential of China and India as tourist source markets, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said government agencies must explore the provision of travel mechanisms such as the electronic visa system to make travel easier.
Frasco led other agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Department of Information and Communications Technology, and the Bureau of Immigration in a high-level convergence meeting to discuss visa concerns and other tourism bottlenecks.
While she recognized the country’s tourism achievements when the Philippines capped 2022 with 2.65 million international tourist arrivals, surpassing the 1.7 million target, she said there were still bottlenecks that prevented the country from fully unlocking its potential in terms of international tourism.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) noted that 58 percent of total Indian visitors were repeat travelers—which highlighted the need to sustain and increase their entry.
According to the department, India has risen from being an opportunity market for the Philippines to an important market source of foreign visitors.
“We are the only country that [has yet to] provide the convenient electronic visa for Indian nationals. This is a huge market that the Philippines has yet to explore,” Frasco said in a statement.
The DOT also highlighted the potential of the Chinese market, noting that in the prepandemic year of 2019, China was the country’s second-largest source of inbound tourists.
At that time, there were more than 1.7 million arrivals from China, which translated to P2.33 billion in tourism receipts.
Citing reports from airlines, Frasco said Philippine consular posts there had issued advisories “limiting the acceptance of visa applications per day from only around 60 to 100.”
She said the country’s posts in China were able to process that year more than 1.5 million visas, ranging from a daily average of 508 per post to as high as 2,704.
“Of our low target of half a million Chinese coming… to the Philippines, we would need to issue 1,704 visas per day. If we are to target the medium scenario of a million Chinese into the country then we would need to issue 3,409 visas per day,” she said.
“If we are to target two million Chinese coming to the Philippines and [this] is the desired target of the Department of Tourism, then we would need to issue 6,818 visas per day for a total of 1.8 million visas in a year, which is not too far off from the 1.5 million issued in 2019,” she added.
China’s outbound tourists
The DOT emphasized that China’s sizable population translates to huge opportunities for the Philippines, considering the 2019 global data which also showed that China provided 160 million outbound tourists worldwide, the largest number that year.
“Chinese outbound tourism will surpass 2019 levels by 2024 and therefore time is of the essence for the Philippines to ensure that the ease with which Chinese citizens can come into the Philippines can be approved,” Frasco said.
“We stand to lose over $2.51 billion in revenues if the difficulties in obtaining visas is not immediately addressed,” she added.
She pointed out further that “airlines and charter operators have already approached us expressing grave concern [over] the present limitations. According to them, they may not be able to increase the flight frequencies that they are very much prepared to resume due to low passenger numbers and airfares, and travel packages may become too expensive and therefore, not competitive.”
The DOT also recommended simplifying the process requirements for Waiver of Exclusion Ground and for the exemption of qualified students applying for a Special Study Permit in the English as a Second Language (ESL) industry.
In 2019, Austria-based research market specialist Bonard identified the Philippines as the fifth largest ESL provider in the world, with around 70 percent of the whole ESL industry in the country based on the island province of Cebu which caters to students from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China as well as emerging markets in Russia, Mongolia, Thailand and the countries in Western Asia.