After nearly two years, the Philippines is reopening its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from more than 150 countries next week. From Thursday, February 10, fully vaccinated travelers who have also tested negative to COVID-19 before traveling can enter the Philippines. Inbound arrivals will no longer have to quarantine after entry.
“By Feb. 10, we will allow entry of fully vaccinated foreign nationals for business and tourism purposes as long as they come from countries belonging to the list as provided under Executive Order 408 or non-visa required countries,” said Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles.
Travelers from 157 countries usually enjoy visa-free entry to the Philippines. Next week’s reopening date follows a postponed December 2021 reopening derailed by the omicron variant.
“We are confident that we will be able to keep pace with our ASEAN neighbors who have already made similar strides to reopen to foreign touristssaid Philippines Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.
Good news for the airlines that fly to the Philippines
Tourism usually tips about US$50 billion annually into the Filipino economy, or about 13% of gross domestic product. Since the Philippines barred most travelers back in March 2020, international tourist numbers have dropped 82%. Domestic airline traveler numbers are down 78%.
In the first 12 months following the March 2020 border closures, tourist numbers to the Philippines dropped by six million. More than one million Filipinos directly or indirectly employed by the tourism industry also lost their jobs.
The border reopening is good news for them and the airlines that fly into the Philippines, including Korean Air, Turkish Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, United Airlines, and homegrown carriers like Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific.
Flag carrier Philippines Airlines was forced into bankruptcy protection last year. The airline successfully recapitalized and reduced its debt by US$2 billion before exiting Chapter 11 provisions in late 2021.
Philippine Airlines has trimmed its fleet size by 20% and cut some long-haul routes. However, the airline continues to offer intra-Asia international flights in addition to services to North America, the Middle East, and Australia.
Boost for Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Today, Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport is seeing Philippine Airlines flights arrive from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Doha, New York JFK, Bhutan, Honolulu, Nagoya, Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok, Fukuoka, Osaka, and London.
Most of these flights are scratching out some revenue flying home Filipinos, other essential travelers, and cargo. The February 10 Filipino border reopening will see two-way travel restrictions on key routes into selected countries, including the US, Thailand, and Singapore, relax and bolster passenger numbers.
Some markets at the other end of several operating Philippines Airlines long-haul routes, including Japan and Australia, remain closed to non-approved travelers out of the Philippines.
Bali also reopens to travelers – but there is a catch
The Philippines is not the southeast Asian country about to relax entry restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers. The Indonesian holiday hotspot of Bali will welcome back all fully vaccinated travelers from Friday, February 4.
Unlike the Philippines, tourist dependant Bali still wants its international arrivals to do between five and seven days of self-isolation in a hotel or private residence – irrespective of their vaccination status.
It’s questionable whether travelers will flock back to Bali with that requirement remaining in place. However, Singapore Airlines has confirmed it will resume flights to Denpasar from Singapore from February 16. Garuda Indonesia is also restarting a weekly flight between Narita and Denpasar.