To attract more tourists, new visa policies needed — exec

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita December 17,2018 - 10:13 PM


If Cebu and the rest of the Philippines really want to have much more tourist arrivals, new visa policies should be instituted by the government including visa on arrival and electronic visas.

This was the call of officials from the GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), the private operator of the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), amid efforts to aggressively bring in more airlines and tourists to the province and nearby areas.

According to Andrew Harrison, GMCAC chief executive advisor, tourists would rather go to countries where securing visas would be easier for them.

“The choice of tourists is based on ease of travel. Many countries have introduced these (e-visa and visa on arrival). If we truly want to compete with the likes of Thailand, Bali, and others, this is a strategy that is a must for the country,” he said during the GMCAC Coffee Rings last Friday.

With the opening of the MCIA Terminal 2 last July, Cebu has been getting more tourist arrivals.

From July to November alone, the GMCAC reported a total of 1.7 million arrivals at the Terminal 2 which is a dedicated terminal for international flights.

At the same time, the GMCAC has been aggressively promoting and doing caravans abroad to bring in more airlines and open new routes from Cebu to other countries.

But according to Aines Librodo, head for airlines marketing and tourism development of the GMCAC, there are still a lot of tourists having a hard time entering the Philippines through the Cebu hub.

“One of the challenges is that it’s quite difficult for these tourists to get to the country due to visa restrictions. We have been talking to the government, showing them statistics, and what other ASEAN countries are doing in terms of relaxing requirements for entry,” she said.

What GMCAC officials are pushing for is putting in place visa on arrival and e-visa mechanisms for tourists.

With visa on arrival, tourists can apply for the visa of the country they’re visiting when they have already arrived. They just need to queue up at a visa counter, apply, and pay the fees. These visas are usually just pasted on the tourist’s passport after.

On the other hand, e-visa is a way for foreigners to apply and pay for the visa of the country they are visiting online, through a website.

Several Southeast Asians already have visa on arrival and e-visa options for tourists including major tourist destinations like Thailand and Indonesia.

For Cebu, the biggest foreign market remain to be the East Asian Countries like China, Korea, and Japan.

Libroro said that that having visa on arrival and e-visas should help airports bring in even more tourists from these countries as well as those from other areas and continents.

But pushing for these mechanisms has been a challenge.

According to Librodo, they had been talking to different government agencies like the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) which is under the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Tourism (DOT).

“We have just started talking to them. It’s not that easy. So many agencies have to be involved. We want the three departments to sit down and discuss and to align what we can do,” she said.

Considering that this kind of proposal needs to have these three, high-level offices to be able to discuss the issue as one, and this has been difficult to achieve.

But she assured that the GMCAC, as well as other stakeholders, will continue to push for these mechanisms.

Librodo said though that there had been a lot of issues with this proposal, especially in terms of security since the Philippines is an archipelago.

For their part, Librodo said they would continue to provide data and statistics to government regarding this, as well as comparisons to other countries which have already put in place the visa on arrival and e-visa options for tourists.

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TAGS: attract, call, exec, GMCAC, more, needed, new, officials, tourists, visa

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