To revive the country’s pandemic-hit tourism sector, the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday said it is planning to implement international tourism bubbles with Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

During a briefing by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on implementing guidelines on the de-escalation to Alert Level 2, Tourism Assistant Secretary Christopher Morales said the DOT is now in talks with the IATF and other countries for possible international travel bubbles.

“In terms of international travelers, while they are still not allowed [to enter the country for leisure travel] there are negotiations and coordination with IATF and other countries like Japan, South Korea and Vietnam for possible international tourism bubbles with these [Philippines] open destinations,” Morales told lawmakers.

Currently, Morales said 17 major destinations are now open for local tourists, including Baguio, Boracay, Bohol, Siargao, El Nido, Coron, parts of Cebu, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan and La Union.

“[With this, we already noted] economic activities in so far as tourism industry is concerned,” he added.

“But of course, we are still prioritizing the health and safety of our people. We also do acknowledge the advice of medical experts and DOH with regard to opening up our borders to foreign travelers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Morales gave assurances that all DOT accredited establishments are strictly following IATF guidelines in connection with leisure travel.

“We issued advisories and guidance with our accredited establishments and inform LGUs with regard

to who are allowable tourists [based on] alert level system [currently implemented],” he added.

“Also, we are pushing for 100 percent vaccination of tourism workers. So far, nationwide, we already reached 70 percent,” he added.

With the implementation of the Alert Level 2 in several parts of the country, Morales also said the travel requirement for tourists is now very minimal.

“Except that within the IATF resolution, we allow LGUs to also introduce some additional restrictions for the movement of minor and above 65,” he added.

Earlier, Asean+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) said creating travel bubbles within the region and within Asia Pacific countries could help revive the tourism industry.

In its latest Analytical Note, AMRO said creating these regional tourism corridors or bubbles in the Asia Pacific region would help make up for the decline in Chinese tourists who used to boost tourism in the region.

Domestic tourism corridors, meanwhile, can help maximize the already strong domestic tourism in Asia Pacific countries, including the Philippines where 86 percent of tourism revenues were wiped out by the pandemic.

AMRO said these should be accompanied by efforts to boost vaccination and the maintenance of health and safety protocols.

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