Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco (Photo courtesy of DOT)

MANILA – Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco is leading the Philippine contingent to the World Travel Market (WTM) in London from Nov. 7-9.

In a news release Monday, the DOT said Frasco engaged in a dialogue over the weekend some 60 representatives of the Filipino community in the United Kingdom during the Kapihan sa Pasuguan at the sidelines of the WTM event.

The dialogue gave opportunity to the attendees to share with Frasco their travel and tourism-related insights.

The most common topics during the discussion were appeals for the resumption of direct flights between Manila and London, ensuring the sustainability and security in Philippine destinations, and the need to address existing issues and impending threats to tourists such as the following: difficulties in complying with entry requirements; need for clean restrooms; scams; and data privacy concerns.

Frasco assured the DOT's consideration of their suggestions in its upcoming plans and programs.

"What I can assure you is that the effort will continue," said Frasco, noting some of the positive outcomes of the DOT's engagement with Philippine Airlines on direct flights, including the airline's mounting of flights from Bangkok to Cebu, and Baguio to Cebu starting December.

To address the concerns over the growing number of reports of scams against tourists, Frasco said the DOT would soon launch the tourist assistance call center.

"We take these things very seriously. And that is why we will fully engage as well with the Department of Justice as far as ensuring the full prosecution to the fullest extent of the law of these individuals and groups that engage in scams against tourists, whether they are Filipinos or foreigners," she said.

Frasco also said the Philippines has introduced a new, simpler and more convenient eArrival card to replace the One Health Pass.

The new platform is a product of the DOT's efforts to converge with relevant national government agencies in order to increase convenience of traveling into the Philippines and convey the country's openness to tourists and investments, Frasco said.

"The obtainment of the eARRIVAL pass is no longer a prerequisite as it was with the One Health Pass before you board. We anticipate that this will provide great convenience to our tourists," she said.

The DOT chief likewise provided updates on the Executive Orders signed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. which make mask-wearing optional for indoor and outdoor settings and removes the RT-PCR pre-departure requirement for fully vaccinated inbound Filipino and foreign travelers.

During the dialogue, she also shared the DOT's commitment to continue and expand the Tourist Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection program together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of National Defense.

"The primary effort of the government is to build confidence in our country. And that confidence is being built with firm foundations on ensuring programs that will convey a certain level of security for tourists that come into the Philippines," she said.

To further facilitate seamless entry of travelers into their end destination in the Philippines, she also bared that the DOT is in talks with the DILG to explore the removal of any entry restrictions individually imposed by local government units.

“We’re currently working with the Department of [the] Interior and Local Government for purposes of ensuring that any and all restrictions individually implemented by local government units nationwide are lifted so that we have a national policy as far as the entry of tourists is concerned. The national policy being, to welcome our friends and family back into the Philippines,” she said. (PNA)