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Visa Reforms to Hike Tourist Arrivals–DOT
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is working to simplify visa procedures for more foreign visitors, especially Chinese nationals, in a bid to further increase the number of tourists in the country.
THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is working to simplify visa procedures for more foreign visitors, especially Chinese nationals, in a bid to further increase the number of tourists in the country.

During a meeting with China National Tourism Agency Administration (CNTA) Chairman Li Jinzao, Teo emphasized the need to simplify visa-application procedures for Chinese tourists by offering visas on arrival or e-visas.

“I am coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs [DFA] and the Bureau of Immigration [BI] to implement this,” she said. Under the BI’s Memorandum Order 2012-002, visas on arrival are allowed for Chinese tour groups of at least  three persons up to 20 persons, with a maximum stay of 14 days.

The DOT is targeting visitor arrivals to reach 12 million by the end of Mr. Duterte’s term in 2022.

Citizens from 158 countries can enter the Philippines visa-free for tourism and business purposes, including the US, the United Kingdom, most European Union (EU)  countries, as well as members of the Asean, according to the DFA web site. Most are allowed to stay in the country for 30 days, but for India, Hong Kong and Macau, they are allowed to stay for 14 days, visa-free.

Previously, even tourists from India had difficulty in securing visas for the Philippines. In 2011 the Philippines announced visas on arrival for Indian nationalities, but shortly after doing so, a planeload of Indian tourists were turned back upon arrival in Kalibo, because they had no visas, tourism industry sources told the BusinessMirror.

The visa-on-arrival rule for Indian citizens, in congruence with a similar privilege for Filipinos visiting that country, even encouraged Philippine Airlines to mount direct flights to New Delhi in April 2011. This was scrapped by November 2011, however, due to low passenger load factors.

Since then, the government has allowed Indian tourists who can enter the Philippines visa-free only if they have existing visas to the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, the EU (Schengen visa), Singapore and the UK. Since last year, tourists who have such visas can land in any international airport in the Philippines.

Teo was recently in China as part of the official delegation led by President  Duterte, who was there on his first state visit.

Another way to attract more Chinese visitors, said the DOT chief, was to implement a language-training program for tour guides.

“We will train them to speak Mandarin under DOT-accredited training centers,” she said. Many luxury hotels have already been hiring Mandarin-speaking locals of Chinese descent, as well as Chinese nationals, to cater to the market.

She was also successful in her bid to attract investors to the country, intimating that “one of the richest businessmen in China committed to developing a town in Iloilo.” Teo declined to identify the Chinese businessman pending formalization of the investment.

“He will build a township that has seaports, airports, malls, theme parks and hotels,” she added.

Teo also met with Clarence Chung, chairman and president of Melco Crown Philippines Resorts Corp. (MCP), which established the City of Dreams Manila, the first foreign branch of City of Dreams Macau. The DOT said Melco is looking for more investments in the Philippines.

“I am positive that more and more tourists will go to the Philippines, with the infrastructure being built and development in tourism zones. We are looking at new investments,” the agency quoted Chung. MCP is a subsidiary of Melco Crown Entertaintment Ltd., a joint venture of Macau gaming industry leader Lawrence Ho  and Australian hotelier and media mogul James Packer.

Casinos in Macau have been posting lower profits for the past three years as Beijing implemented a crackdown on luxurious spending overseas and corruption among its government officials. MCP had looked to its Manila integrated casino resort property to help shore up its sluggish income.

The DOT secretary also announced charter flights between Guangzhou and Clark, which will be inaugurated in December, aside from the Guangzhou-Laoag flights launched earlier.

In a related development, Teo signed an agreement with SM Prime Holdings Inc. President Jeffrey Lim, for a project to promote Philippine tourism.

As per the agreement, which was signed at the Hyatt Hotel in Beijing, SM will provide exhibit areas and ad spaces across its malls in China to create awareness of Filipino culture and Philippine tourist destinations.

“We hope to increase tourist arrivals with the help of SM. We are planning to do road shows by next year and we will be inviting tour operators to promote Philippine tourist destinations,” Teo said.

According to Lim, about 100 million Chinese shoppers pass through its malls yearly. “China is a huge market for the Philippines; if we could just get 5 percent to 10 percent of that, we can double the tourist arrivals,” he added. SM operates seven malls in China, while one more is under construction.
  Source: Business Mirror

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