Return of Chinese tourists to PH seen due to group visa – envoy

By Liza Agoot

May 1, 2023, 8:37 pm

<p>Photo courtesy of Dr. Erwin Balane</p>

Photo courtesy of Dr. Erwin Balane

BEIJING – The Philippine Embassy in China has expressed confidence that target Chinese tourist arrivals will be achieved this year following the restoration of group visa and e-visa applications.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz said they noticed a surge in tourist application even before the so-called May Day holiday.

“May surge ng application lalo na nang nag-restore na tayo ng group visa starting April 10 (We saw a surge in applications, especially with the restoration of the group visa application starting April 10),” FlorCruz said in a recent interview.

He said the Philippines is popular to the Chinese because of its tropical weather, tropical fruits, beautiful beaches and Filipino hospitality.

“They are brought by accredited travel agencies, so we are confident that there is an upsurge of revenge travel,” he added.

He said accredited travel agencies have started availing of the group travel visa application.

“With the five-day holiday, many of them have planned to spend five to seven days in the Philippines during the May Day holiday. It’s a good timing for us that we restored our group visa,” he said.

He said travel agencies have started to process group visa of 10 to 20 and even 100 Chinese nationals wishing to travel to the Philippines.

Erwin Balane, the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) attaché in northern China, said e-visa processing would further increase the number of Chinese tourists looking to visit the Philippines as China is among the areas known for its implementation.

“We have specific instruction from the President, so we have to do it. Hopefully by July or August, it will be up and running. We are going to inform our friends here in China that the system will be available already so that it will hasten the facilitation of the application for visa for the Philippines,” he said.

Balane said at the end of 2022, China ranked 13th as a source of tourists in the Philippines and has improved to seventh place after the first quarter of 2023.

In 2019, around 1.73 million Chinese tourists arrived in the Philippines, spending over USD2.33 billion before the borders closed due to Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

“Ibig sabihin nagpi-pick-up na tayo pero malayo pa rin tayo sa numero na hinahanap natin sa pre-pandemic level. Inaasahan pa rin natin na sa mga pagbabago na ginagawa natin sa visa at mga produktong binebenta natin sa China, baka sakali makahabol tayo (It means, we are recovering but we are still far from the pre-pandemic level that we are targeting. We are still hopeful that the changes we have made in visa and products we sell to China, we can still catch up),” Balane said.

The DOT is expecting at least 500,000 Chinese tourists will visit the Philippines in 2023 after the Chinese government ease pandemic restrictions on travel abroad.

Balane said the first post pandemic charter flight from China arrived in Kalibo, Aklan on Friday.

“Magandang record iyan at may mga susunod pang charter flights (That is a good record and there will be more charter flights). On May 15, we will be going to Chengdu to launch Chengdu-Kalibo also, so hopefully other charter flights will follow until the summer holiday,” he said.

Yanghua Huang, professor at Renmin University, said more Chinese tourists are expected to visit other countries following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Chinese have money and they now want to help others have money too by buying products and visiting countries,” Yanghua told the group of foreign journalists on Friday. (PNA)