The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said passenger and tourist arrivals are expected to pick up starting in January when vaccines for Coronavirus-19 are readily available.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said fewer arrivals are expected up to the end of the year due to stiff travel restrictions imposed by the government to minimize the spread of the pandemic.
The BI disclosed that only 3.5 million passengers arrived from January to September, in contrast to the almost 13 million that arrived for the same period last year.
“It started with a strong 1.7 million arrivals in January, then dropped to less than 500,000 in March, and slump(ed) to a mere 25,000 in April,” Morente said.
The sudden drop, he said, could be attributed to the spread of Covid-19, which prompted the Philippines and other countries to impose travel restrictions.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported last May that travel and tourism are among the most affected sectors of virus, and projections show a decline of up 78 percent in tourist arrivals worldwide for the year.
Morente said that as early as January, before the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic, the BI suspended the issuance of the Visa Upon Arrival facility, which slowed down the arrival of Chinese tour groups.
In February, the national government issued a travel ban on foreigners coming from China and eventually expanded to include all foreign tourists.
Currently, only Filipinos, their spouse and minor children are allowed to enter the country as well as foreign children with special needs and foreign parent of minor Filipinos.
Also allowed to come are accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas.
In 2019, the BI reported more than 16 million arrivals which was more than the 15.1 million recorded in 2018.
“We are ready to implement any changes in the travel restrictions imposed by the IATF (Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases),” said Morente.