Travel agencies uncertain if easing of restrictions will boost outbound tourism

Published October 23, 2020, 6:06 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Local travel agencies are still unsure if the removal of the required antigen test for Filipinos flying abroad would bring about an increased frequency of travel after an extended period of restriction.

“To be honest, I am not sure if this would contribute to the boost(ing) of travel,” Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) President Ritchie Tuaño said in a text message on Friday.

He said that while the Philippine government would no longer require outbound Filipino travelers to undergo a rapid antigen test before departing the country, stringent requirements are still existing in other countries.

“This does not remove the COVID[-19] test requirement of the country of destination or transit, where ever it is applicable,” he said.

Tuaño said that the lack of a pre-departure coronavirus test “may increase the (anxiety) of travellers” for countries that do not require it, particularly, “inside an aircraft when you are unsure if the stranger next to you is truly negative.”

He also noted that destinations that allow entry of “non-essential”  travellers “are still very limited and those in the list are not the popular ones or sought-after holiday destinations.”

The Interagency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued Resolution No. 80 to revoke its earlier order requiring outbound travelers to submit a negative antigen test result 24 hours prior to their departure.

The travelers, however, would still to have secure a negative diagnostic test if required by the country of destination or the airline.

Antigen tests are used to detect proteins of the novel coronavirus and to diagnose acute and early infection. Like the polymerase chair reaction (RT-PCR) test, the samples are collected thru swabbing.

The IATF had recently lifted the travel restriction on non-essential foreign travels of Filipinos effective October 21.

Under the resolution earlier issued by the IATF,  those traveling on tourist visas must submit confirmed round-trip tickets as well as travel and health insurance.

They must also sign an immigration form acknowledging the travel risks amid the pandemic. When they return, the travelers must follow the government’s health guidelines such as undergoing COVID tests and quarantine.