Philippines mulls easing visa process for tourists from China, India

 Monday, March 27, 2023 


The Philippines government is considering visa amendments to make it easier for overseas visitors, notably Chinese and Indian people, to enter the country.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco stated that government agencies must explore the provision of travel mechanisms such as the electronic visa system to make travel simpler, citing the potential of China and India as tourist source markets.

Frasco conducted a high-level convergence conference with other agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, and the Bureau of Immigration, to examine visa problems and other tourism bottlenecks.

While she acknowledged the country’s tourism successes, such as surpassing the 1.7 million objective with 2.65 million foreign visitor arrivals in 2022, she stated there were still barriers that hindered the country from fully realising its international tourism potential.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) reported that 58 percent of overall Indian tourists were repeat visitors, emphasising the importance of sustaining and increasing their entry.

According to the department, India has evolved from a potential market for the Philippines to a significant source of foreign visitors.

The DOT also emphasised the Chinese market’s potential, stating that China was the country’s second-largest source of incoming tourists in 2019. At the time, there were almost 1.7 million Chinese tourists, amounting to P2.33 billion in tourism earnings.

Citing reports from airlines, Frasco said Philippine consular posts there had issued advisories “limiting the acceptance of visa applications per day from only around 60 to 100.”

She stated that the country’s posts in China were able to handle more than 1.5 million visas that year, with daily averages ranging from 508 to 2,704.

“We are the only country that [has yet to] provide the convenient electronic visa for Indian nationals. This is a huge market that the Philippines has yet to explore,” Frasco said in a statement.

“Of our low target of half a million Chinese coming… to the Philippines, we would need to issue 1,704 visas per day. If we are to target the medium scenario of a million Chinese into the country then we would need to issue 3,409 visas per day,” she said.

“If we are to target two million Chinese coming to the Philippines and [this] is the desired target of the Department of Tourism, then we would need to issue 6,818 visas per day for a total of 1.8 million visas in a year, which is not too far off from the 1.5 million issued in 2019,” she added.

The DOT stressed that China’s big population translates to enormous prospects for the Philippines, citing 2019 global data that showed China offered 160 million outbound visitors globally, the highest number that year.

“Chinese outbound tourism will surpass 2019 levels by 2024 and therefore time is of the essence for the Philippines to ensure that the ease with which Chinese citizens can come into the Philippines can be approved,” Frasco said.

“We stand to lose over $2.51 billion in revenues if the difficulties in obtaining visas is not immediately addressed,” she added.

She pointed out further that “airlines and charter operators have already approached us expressing grave concern [over] the present limitations. According to them, they may not be able to increase the flight frequencies that they are very much prepared to resume due to low passenger numbers and airfares, and travel packages may become too expensive and therefore, not competitive.”

The DOT also suggested reducing the procedural criteria for Waiver of Exclusion Grounds and exempting qualified students seeking a Special Study Permit in the English as a Second Language (ESL) industry.

According to Austria-based research market specialist Bonard, the Philippines is the fifth largest ESL provider in the world, with roughly 70% of the country’s total ESL industry based on the island province of Cebu, which caters to students from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China, as well as emerging markets in Russia, Mongolia, Thailand, and Western Asian countries.

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