THE Department of Tourism (DOT) hopes China will invest in tourism infrastructure projects, following the signing of a bilateral tourism cooperation implementation program between both countries. Philippine travel agencies and tour operators are also expected to jointly promote the country and mainland China to encourage more Chinese tourism arrivals.
“We are grateful for China’s commitment and interest in partnering with the Philippines as we usher in this new era of tourism focused on building the industry into a stronger, more sustainable, and more resilient economic pillar for the country’s transformation into a tourism powerhouse in Asia,” Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said in a statement. She was part of the delegation that accompanied President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. during his three-day visit to Beijing.
The DOT chief signed the Implementation Program (IP) on Tourism Cooperation with the China’s Culture and Tourism Minister Hu Heping, in the presence of Marcos Jr. and China’s President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
“This Implementation Program with China will generate massive employment opportunities and investments across all sectors of tourism throughout the Philippines. Our governments will work together on increasing tourist arrivals, resuming and adding direct flights to key and emerging destinations, joint promotional activities, and inviting tourism investments in infrastructure, among others,” said Frasco. Philippine carriers, however, are still on the fence about expanding their direct routes to China due to the widespread Covid infections and uncertain aviation rules there. (See, “Additional routes on hold for PAL, CEB amid China ‘reopening,’” in the BusinessMirror, January 4, 2023.)
2nd top market for tourists
Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed total direct investments from China reached $14.77 million from January to September 2022, just 15 percent less than the $17.46 million invested for the full year 2021. No data were available on specific sectors invested in by China.
In 2019, China ranked as the second largest source of tourists for the Philippines, with 1.74 million arrivals, accounting for 21 percent of the total 8.26 million international travelers that year. In 2022, there were 39,627 tourists from China, putting the market in 10th place, of the total 2.65 million arrivals.
The agreement will implement the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both countries in September 2002. This developed amid continuing calls by local tourism stakeholders and more lawmakers for increased testing protocols for Chinese tourists. Senator Risa Hontiveros was the latest legislator who suggested government “add more layers of health and security protocols” as foreign tourists increase in the country.
China continues to grapple with widespread Covid-19 infections such that Beijing had to reassure Manila that meetings between Marcos Jr. and Xi, as well as their respective officials, were conducted in “a bubble arrangement.” As per an earlier briefing by the Department of Foreign Affairs, members of the Philippine delegation were also supposed to be tested prior to their return on Thursday to Manila. Those found positive will not be allowed to join the President’s return flight and will have to quarantine in a special isolation facility in Beijing.
Under the five-year tourism cooperation agreement, the Philippines and China will encourage and support the exchange of their respective administrators and tourism professionals to strengthen mutual development of hotels, resorts, cruise, port, tourism products, and other related industries, along with competency standards.
“We will also encourage investments in tourism infrastructure and support tourism enterprises of both countries in the development of tourism projects,” said Frasco.
She added, “Local tour operators and travel agencies will also take part in the program by jointly advertising both countries’ tourism offerings through promotional materials by highlighting significant attractions and destinations as well as enhancing public information exchange.”
A technical working group composed of officials from the DOT and China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism will meet at least once a year, or whenever necessary, to further discuss the implementation covered in the agreement.
The Bureau of Quarantine revealed on Tuesday that some partially vaccinated travelers who recently arrived from China tested positive for Covid and are now quarantined. It did not say if they were Chinese or were just the eight unvaccinated Covid-positive Filipinos reported by the Department of Health on Wednesday. (See, “8 unvaxxed Pinoys from China test positive for Covid—DOH,” in the BusinessMirror, January 5, 2023.)