Philippines promises warm welcome to vaccinated Koreans
“Now that the Philippines has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers, we hope to be able to extend our welcome to Korean travelers and share with you the unique aspects of our own culture, from our cuisine to our diverse heritage,” Romulo-Puyat told the press at the Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Wednesday.
“We are thrilled that Korean citizens have started returning to our country, and we look forward to Korea becoming our top market once again.”
Koreans were the No. 1 tourists in the Philippines every year from 2010 to 2019, according to the Philippines’ Tourism Department. Nearly 2 million Koreans visited the country in 2019.
The Philippines reopened its borders on Feb. 10 to fully-vaccinated tourists from its 157 visa-free nations including Korea, the United States and Japan, ending a two-year border closure due to the pandemic. The opening will include all countries starting April 1.
Korean travelers can enter the Philippines without quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. They have to present a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours of departure to the Philippines.
Starting April 1, rapid antigen test results will be accepted in place of PCR test results, according to the tourism department.
Unvaccinated foreign travelers are not allowed to enter the country, except for children younger than 12 traveling with fully-vaccinated parents.
The visit from the head of tourism in the Philippines came just before Korea eases its own quarantine policies for fully vaccinated foreign travelers.
Starting April 1, people inoculated outside Korea will be able to submit their vaccination records online and get exempted from quarantine upon arrival.
“These are welcome developments coming just a few weeks apart, which we hope will encourage more Koreans and other travelers based in Korea to either take their first trip to or re-visit their favorite places in the Philippines,” said Maria Theresa Dizon-De Vega, ambassador of the Philippines to Korea, at the press conference at the Lotte Hotel on Wednesday.
The ambassador added that tourism agreements have been made between the two countries in recent months, including one for the Philippines and Korean government to mutually recognize each other’s vaccination certifications.
Since the Philippines reopened its borders on Feb. 10, a total of 102,031 foreigners entered the nation as of March 16, according to the tourism department. Of them, Americans numbered around 22,200 followed by nearly 5,000 Canadians, around 4,300 British and 3,700 Koreans.
Korea has direct flights to Manila, Cebu and Clark.
“As some of you know, Cebu is a perfect place for scuba diving,” said Howard Lance Uyking, an associate secretary at the Philippines Department of Tourism, at the press conference. “Its diving circuit covers Moalboal, which is famous for its ‘sardine run,’ where millions of sardines converge and swim in synchronized movements in spherical formations.”
Uyking encouraged more visitors to check out the culinary scenes in Cebu and Clark.
“Clark International Airport gives you access to the country’s food capital, Pampanga,” said Uyking. “The city of San Fernando located in Pampanga is currently bidding to be recognized as a Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy. This is one place you cannot miss for a flavorful journey to our heritage sites.”
Although this was her first visit to Korea since the onset of the pandemic, the head of tourism for the Philippines knows Korea well.
Having served in the government as an economic consultant on housing policies and on presidential management in the early 2000s, and as the undersecretary of agriculture in from 2017 to 2018, Romulo-Puyat had been visiting Korea regularly from the 1990s, when she was teaching economics at the University of the Philippines, according to the embassy.
“There’s a BTS song I love to quote called 'Spring Day,' which gave me a lot of hope,” she said. “While we don’t have four seasons in the Philippines, we certainly went through a dark period. But a new day has come. And we’d love for you to see our sunrise in the mountains and sunsets by the beach.”
The Philippines is hosting the World Travel and Tourism Council's World Summit in Manila next month, which will be discussing the tourism sector's post-pandemic recovery.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]