WELCOME BACK, TOURISTS. Tourists frolic under the sun in Boracay in this undated photo. Starting February 10, fully vaccinated international travelers are allowed entry into the country, provided that they present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – The country's tourism industry is ready to welcome fully vaccinated international travelers on February 10, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Wednesday.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the sector had been preparing for this development ever since the borders were closed in 2020.

Two years into the pandemic, she added that most tourism workers have received vaccination against the coronavirus.

"While this will be the first time the Philippines is opening its doors for foreign leisure travelers since the start of the pandemic, the tourism industry has prepared for this development for close to two years," she said in a text message. "We look forward to welcoming our foreign visitors once again especially with Metro Manila, the country's main international gateway, placed under Alert Level 2."

The official added that health and safety protocols would remain in place to prevent the transmission of the virus.

"Tourism workers have been vaccinated and the observance of health and safety protocols at every destination remains to be a priority. The DOT will be focusing its efforts on the visa-free countries under EO 408 that are identified as our key, strategic, and opportunity markets," she said.

The Philippines will allow fully vaccinated international tourists from visa-free countries, beginning February 10, provided that they present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.

To date, a total of 157 countries enjoy visa-free entry privileges to the Philippines, including some of its top tourist markets such as South Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States and Germany.

On the matter of preparing the destinations, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) chief-operating-officer Ma. Anthonette Velasco-Allones last Monday said the country has established 79 tourism circuits, consisting of travel-ready places in different regions.

"It is safe to say that they are ready. They are more than ready," she said, adding that the TPB is also working with the DOT-National Capital Region to "refresh" visitor arrival areas in Metro Manila.

The government is also eyeing to further streamline travel rules in destinations to make travel more convenient, especially for foreign tourists.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Howard Lance Uyking said the DOT, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and local government units will be meeting to discuss the subject.

Optimistic

With the Philippines finally reopening its gates to leisure travelers, Velasco-Allones expressed optimism about the Philippines' tourism industry in 2022.

"Our outlook for the tourism industry in 2022 is actually quite optimistic. Imagine the first major global summit will happen in the Philippines in April," she said, referring to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit.

She added that the government would continue to promote and develop the Philippines as a top international MICE destination.

"The DOT and TPB teams are actually preparing for the MICE global campaign to be formally launched this year, wala tayong (we don't have this) global MICE campaign in the past so this is something that is new," she said.

Aside from the WTTC Global Summit, one of the events slated in the coming months is the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

"Our MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions) team is also in talks with several professional associations like medical groups, wellness groups because there are professional and corporate events already in our calendar," Velasco-Allones said. (PNA)