Besides China, tourism stakeholders are eyeing more arrivals from India, saying it’s a promising market to grow the country’s tourism sector.
Bai Hotel general manager Alfred Reyes said the easing of visa policies is sure to boost foreign arrivals, especially for big markets such as India.
The over 600-room hotel is currently enjoying high arrivals from China, Japan and Korea. It also logs high occupancy from the US and Europe.
“India is promising. It is another big market worth exploring,” said Reyes, adding that easy access of this market to the Philippines will lead to more direct flights that will open trade and tourism activities for both countries.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is pushing for friendlier visa guidelines, particularly for major markets like China and India.
The agency has been meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Justice to look into the possibility of implementing friendlier visa guidelines to attract more foreign visitors to the country.
DOT specifically sought to facilitate the visa upon arrival (VUA) processing for Indian tourists.
While they acknowledge the mandate and concerns of each agency, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. is hopeful they can come up with a solution that would drive growth for the country’s tourism sector while not compromising the country’s border and security protocols.
But Bengzon stressed that many of the country’s Southeast Asian neighbors that have long relaxed their visa requirements are now reaping benefits, and recording incremental growth in these markets.
India passport holders with valid visas to the United Kingdom, Japan, United States and Singapore are allowed VUA in the country.
Arrivals from India grew by 15.41 percent to 63,089 in the first half of the year.
While India is still far from logging high growth arrivals compared to China and Korea, Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Carlo Suarez is hopeful arrivals from India will improve next year.
“We are hoping to see improvements, especially that Cebu already has hotels, resorts and restaurants that are Halal ready,” said Suarez.
Suarez, who is the general manager of Cebu Grand Hotel, said Indians usually come for leisure and business.
“We have not tapped the full market class for India, unlike Korea and China,” he said.
Indians, according to the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), are also among the top nationalities that obtained special resident retiree visa (SSRV) in the Philippines, with 4,913 SSRV holders after China (21,503) and Korea (12,007), as of August 2018.
The Philippines gives out an SSRV for foreigners and balikbayans aged 35 years and above who wish to retire or stay longer in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, countries in Northeast Asia composed of Japan, Korea and China remain the target source markets for the Philippines.
But the DOT said it will also focus on attracting other countries within southeast Asia.
“This will have to be given attention because short travel time, wide range of low-cost carrier options, and affordability present wide range of opportunities for us to grow the intra-Asean percentage share from 10 percent to 15 percent to 20 percent,” said Bengzon.
Under the National Tourism Development Plan, the government targets 12 million inbound visitors and 89.2 million domestic travelers in 2022.