Low arrivals expected until yearend, BI still optimistic

2020-10-14

MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Immigration (BI) expects a significantly lower turnout of arriving passengers this year. Records from the BI revealed that only a total of 3.5 million passengers arrived from January to September, in contrast to the almost 13 million that arrived in the same period last year. “If you look at the figures, it starts with a strong 1.7 million arrival in January, then drops to less than 500,000 in March, and slumps to a mere 25,000 in April,” said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente. The sudden drop in numbers can be attributed to the spread of Covid-19, which prompted the Philippines, as well as other countries to impose travel restrictions. In a May 2020 report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), travel and tourism are among the most affected sectors of Covid-19, and projections show a decline of 58% to 78% in international tourist arrivals worldwide for this year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, international travel increases the chance of getting and spreading Covid-19. Hence, the Philippine government imposed travel restrictions to slow down the spread of the virus. As early as January, before the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic, the BI in foresight suspended the issuance of the Visa Upon Arrival facility, which slowed down the arrival of Chinese tour groups. In February, the national government issued a travel ban on foreigners coming from China and its special administrative regions, which it eventually expanded to include all foreign tourists. Currently, only Filipinos, their spouse and minor children are allowed to enter the country holding tourist visas. Restrictions likewise allow foreign children with special needs of Filipinos, foreign parent of minor Filipinos, and foreign parent of Filipino children with special needs to enter the country. Those who are eligible to enter are required to secure an entry visa from Philippine embassies or consulates, prior to their arrival. Apart from said categories, accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents, foreign airline crewmembers, foreign seafarers with 9(c) visas, and foreigners with long-term visas are also allowed. “We used to see a spike in figures during holidays, like during the holy week, all souls day, and Christmas, but we’ve seen very low numbers this year,” he stated. In 2019, the BI recorded more than 16 million arrivals the entire year, which was higher than the 15.1 million recorded in 2018. “We are optimistic and expect the numbers to pick up in 2021, hopefully when we see an end to this pandemic,” said Morente. His statement is aligned with UNWTO’s projection that international travel may start recovering next year. “We are ready to implement any changes in the travel restrictions imposed by the IATF (Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases),” said Morente. “We trust their wisdom, and our men are on standby to serve international travelers in our airports and seaports,” he added.

 

Source: http://www.immigration.gov.ph/

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