Local carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) and AirAsia Philippines Wednesday, (May 26) called for a ‘green lane' approach allowing foreign travelers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the Philippines to revive tourism safely.
"We look forward to easier entry for fully-vaccinated travelers as a way of jumpstarting the aviation, travel and tourism industries that support Filipino jobs and the economy," says PAL President and COO Gilbert Santa Maria.
"A good number of our passengers flying in from the U.S. have completed their full vaccine doses. We could welcome more travelers from the U.S. and other countries with favorable epidemiological situations, such as Singapore, Australia, Israel and Korea," he elaborated.
Already, over 20 countries - Spain, France, Nepal, Thailand (Phuket), among them, have adopted the use of ‘green lanes’ and are now allowing entry of fully vaccinated travelers.
“AirAsia believes that the ‘green lane’ will encourage leisure travelers who previously expressed concerns on varying requirements per destination," says AirAsia Philippines Spokesperson Steve Dailisan.
"This will be reinforced by the implementation of uniform travel requirements through a digital travel pass," he noted. "If the execution becomes effective for domestic travel, then we can slowly welcome foreign tourists again."
"Safe and convenient travel with access to prime tourist sites and no quarantine requirements can help encourage more people to have themselves vaccinated," added Santa Maria.
"To fuel domestic tourism recovery, we should also strive for more air connectivity and a standardized set of travel guidelines and health protocols."
"There is increasing scientific evidence that vaccination is not only protecting people but also dramatically reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission," stressed International Air Transportation Association (IATA) Director-General Willie Walsh.
"This is bringing us closer to a world where vaccination and testing enables the freedom to travel without quarantine."
The Department of Tourism has proposed the green lane concept to remove quarantine requirements for immunized travelers, and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is working with DOT, DOH and other government agencies to review possible changes in arrival protocols.
Many travelers based overseas are already fully-vaccinated that's why government authorities in various countries are relaxing travel restrictions for such low-risk or risk-free travelers.
For her part, Tourism Chief Bernadette Romulo - Puyat underscored, “We must keep pace with our neighbors and the rest of the world in slowly reopening our tourist destinations. We must be ready for the visitors when the whole world is ready to safely travel again."
The US Centers for Disease Control (US CDC) now allows fully-vaccinated travelers to mix more freely in public, stating that "Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread SARS-CoV-2 and can now travel at low risk to themselves."
Furthermore, per the US CDC, "fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine” upon arrival in the U.S. following international travel.
The CDC will update these recommendations as more people get vaccinated, as rates of COVID-19 change, and as additional scientific evidence become available.
"Standardization in health protocols will be the best key in winning back tourism. When people feel safe, they will travel," according to Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion during the Bohol Tourism stakeholders forum held virtually on Monday, 24 May 2021.
Other business groups have also expressed support for the DOT’s ‘green lane’ proposal.
The Boracay Chamber of Commerce and Industry maintained there is a need to allow foreign travelers entry to the Philippines because our tourism industry will not survive on local tourists alone.
And "While we strongly believe that easing of restrictions among fully vaccinated individuals is key to rebooting tourism, there must be no room for complacency," the AirAsia Philippines spokesman added.
"Industry partners and all stakeholders must proactively monitor and observe established health and safety protocols.”