THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it remains hopeful for the gradual increase of tourists this 2022.

This, as the government announced the reopening of the country’s borders on February 10.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said they are projecting a steady increase in the number of tourists, as the country slowly reopens for international tourism, following almost two years of restrictions.

The BI Port Operations Division reported a massive drop in arrivals in 2021 compared to 2020.

“Last year, we saw only 1.4 million arrivals, which is significantly lower than the 3.6 million in 2020,” Morente said.

“The numbers were dismal, because pre-pandemic we were hitting 16.9 million arrivals,” he added.

The BI said tourist extension applications dropped by 53 percent in 2021.

The BI’s Tourist Visa Section only processed a total of 111,781 applications for extension of stay of tourists, which was 53-percent lower than the 240,276 similar applications the office received in 2020.

“The low numbers we’ve seen in the past few years has really affected the tourism and international travel sector,” said Morente. “We remain optimistic that 2022 will be a better year for international travel, especially now that we will reopen our borders. Hopefully, little by little, international tourism regains momentum,” Morente said.

The country is expected to initially allow nationals of countries under Executive No. 408 visa-free entry upon presentation of required documents.