The Philippines will soon welcome back foreign tourists, the government said Friday, as it prepares a partial re-opening to vaccinated travelers 20 months after closing its borders to contain the coronavirus.
Tourism operators across the archipelago nation famed for its beaches and dive spots have been devastated by a plunge in international visitors and restrictions on domestic travel since the start of the pandemic.
The government’s COVID-19 task force has “approved in principle” the tourism department’s request to permit entry to vaccinated travelers from countries with a low infection rate, Tourism Secretary Berna Puyat said.
Borders will reopen “soon,” according to the statement, without providing a date.
“Allowing tourists from green countries or territories that have the majority of its population vaccinated and with low infection rate, will greatly help in our recovery efforts,” Puyat said.
“This move will likewise aid in bolstering consumer confidence, which is a large contributor to our gross domestic product,” she added.
More than 40 countries and territories are currently classified “green” — low risk and exempt from quarantine requirements — including China, Indonesia and Zimbabwe.
Tourism is a major driver of the Southeast Asian country’s economy, accounting for nearly 13 percent of gross domestic product in 2019, when it attracted more than eight million visitors, official data show.
That slumped to 5.4 percent last year as tourist arrivals plummeted 82 percent to 1.48 million.
The government has eased virus restrictions in recent weeks as the daily infection rate hovers at the lowest level since the beginning of the year and the nationwide vaccination rate increases.
Around one-third of the country’s 110 million people are fully vaccinated.
The Philippines has recorded more than 2.8 million infections since the start of the pandemic, including around 45,000 fatalities.