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Arriving slowly

Data from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) showed that foreign arrivals in the Philippines are not likely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 under the best possible scenario.

For this year, PATA expects visitor arrivals in the country to reach 2.29 million under the mild scenario, and eventually increase to 6.54 million by 2023. By 2024, visitor arrivals are forecasted to reach 8.59 million, which if it holds true, is slightly more than the pre-pandemic international arrival levels which stood at 8.26 million in 2019.

However, under a severe scenario, forecasts show that a return to pre-pandemic levels will not happen even until 2024.

PATA said many factors determine the various scenarios, such as government policies from both source and in-destination, the emergence of new variants, and vaccine rollout, among others. Asia is seen as the major source region for visitor arrivals in the country across all scenarios, followed by the Americas.

Foreign arrivals are expected to increase this year with the country opening its borders to all foreign tourists by April 1.

The International Air Transport Association has welcomed the increasing momentum toward re-opening of borders and relaxation of travel restrictions, lauding countries like the Philippines for efforts in supporting air travel that is already broadly enjoyed in other parts of the world.

Travel and tourism industries are among the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the slow recovery to pre-pandemic levels of foreign arrivals will be extra challenging for those who have already been affected by the past two years. However, it is something that we have to prepare for and as our government continues to support those sectors through more lean years, we also have to take the opportunity to boost and upgrade it so that when the tourists and visitors do come back, they are doing so to a better, more beautiful Philippines where the initiatives to improve both our surroundings, attractions, and livelihoods are more inclusive and sustainable.

Reopening the country to foreign tourists is but the first step. For a country that has been among those left behind because the pandemic, we have a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully we take this crisis as an opportunity to do better and manage to emerge triumphant as we embark on this recovery journey that has just begun.*

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