TO ATTRACT more tourists to visit the Philippines, the Private-Sector Advisory Council-Tourism Sector (PSAC-Tourism) recommended a temporary 30-day visa-free entry for tourists while streamlining the e-visa process.
In a meeting with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the council composed of top business leaders from various industries also suggested exploring third-party service providers to enhance the efficiency of the eVisa system.
Granting visa-free entry is also among the top wishlist priorities outlined by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) for the year.
HRRAC president Alfred Reyes, in a past interview, said simplifying entry procedures attracts more international visitors, boosting tourism and contributing to the local economy. Granting visa-free entry encourages repeat visits and attracts potential investments.
PSAC lead convener and Aboitiz Group president and chief executive officer Sabin Aboitiz, underscored the need for strategic initiatives to make the Philippines a top-tier tourist destination. The council emphasized the importance of attracting tourists and ensuring they have a compelling reason to stay, spend money and return.
PSAC-Tourism proposed a comprehensive campaign to showcase the rich tapestry of native cuisines and advocated for hosting major sporting events to create an immersive and engaging experience for visitors inspired by success stories from India, China, Singapore and Thailand.
“Our recommendations are rooted in a collaborative effort to position the Philippines as a premier global tourism destination. By showcasing our unique culture, cuisines and natural beauty, we believe we can create a holistic and unforgettable experience for tourists,” said Aboitiz.
Aboitiz was joined by other PSAC Tourism members Lance Gokongwei of JG Summit Holdings Inc., Lucio Tan III of LT Group, Rene Limcaoco of Hertz Philippines and Lourdes Josephine Gotianun-Yap of Filinvest Development Corp.
Besides granting visa-free entry, PSAC-Tourism also proposed accelerating public-private partnerships for regional airports to drive international demand. This initiative aims to increase international airport connectivity and capacity for a broader range of international airlines and routes.
To boost the country’s hospitality sector, PSAC-Tourism also suggested offering enhanced incentives to increase the hotel supply to compete with neighboring countries.
The group also raised the importance of having a VAT refund scheme for tourists to attract more tourists and increase tourism receipts.
The Philippines welcomed 5.45 million international visitor arrivals in 2023, recording more than P480 billion in international tourism receipts, higher by 124.87 percent compared with the P214.58 billion estimated visitor receipts from the same period in 2022.
South Korea retained its top spot as the country’s main source of international visitors, getting 26.41 percent of the pie which delivered 1,439,336 foreign tourists, followed by the United States with 903,299 tourists (16.57 percent) visiting the country; then Japan with 305,580 (5.61 percent); Australia with 266,551 (4.89 percent); and China with 263,836 (4.84 percent).
Other foreigners who visited the country from other top source markets after China were from Canada, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Malaysia.
The Department of Tourism aims to attract 7.7 million international visitor arrivals this year.