Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that the government must first ensure that its vaccination program against COVID-19 will be a success before it can worry about reopening the country’s tourism industry to foreign tourists.
In his Thursday presser, Nograle said the government is following a “step-by-step” process but the priority is still vaccinating at least 70 million Filipinos this year.
“As far as tourism is concerned, I think what they’re looking to achieve first is a successful immunization rollout and then after that, then, I think countries will now start talking about opening borders for tourists,” he said.
“Once we start seeing better numbers, because of the vaccination and the immunization rollout, then, that’s when we will start talking about tourism. I think the same principle holds true in other countries as well,” he added.
Right now, Nograles said the Philippines is ready to accept foreign investors because of the need to revive the economy even though tourism will contribute to that goal.
“As far as tourism is concerned, I know it’s also an economic, meaning to say, tourism also has a positive economic effect. But as far as opening borders to tourists are concerned, it’s something that we will discuss once we see a successful immunization rollout,” he said.
According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Philippines suffered an 83.97-percent decline in tourist arrivals in the country last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From January to December 2020, the Philippines only received 1,323,956 foreign visitors.
Last Month, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that the Philippines is open to creating travel “bubbles” with neighboring countries to boost international travel. She added that these travel corridors need strict enforcement of health and safety protocols that will be established by both countries.