Hundreds of foreign tourists returned to the Philippines on Thursday (Feb 10), becoming the latest Southeast Asian nation to reopen after its borders were closed to visitors nearly two years ago due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The majority of passengers came from the United States and Thailand, with 109 and 93 passengers, respectively. The following countries also have more than 10 arriving tourists: Malaysia, Canada, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Australia.
Coronavirus cases have declined sharply in the Philippines, a country popular for its white-sand beaches and marine life.
Officials from Manila’s airport welcomed tourists from countries such as the United States and China who were visiting beaches or reunited with family and friends.
Horse carriage drivers and bike rental operators in the Walled City of Intramuros in Manila were preparing for what they hoped would be a steady stream of vacationers to revive their business.
More than half of the 110 million people in the Philippines have now received a full vaccination against the disease, which peaked in September with more than 33,000 new cases.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puya said the first batch of tourists might include some of the staples like Boracay, Palawan, Batangas, Bohol and Baguio City. However, no more details have been released regarding the destinations yet.
Travel companies hope that the trickle of tourists will turn into a flood that will boost the tourism sector. Tourists must show proof of vaccination but are not required to quarantine.