The Department of Tourism (DOT) is eyeing to expand the Visa upon Approval (VUA) policy for Indian nationals as it seeks to further increase tourist arrivals in the country.
DOT Undersecretary Rolando Canizal said the agency is aiming for 100,000 Indian tourists to visit the Philippines this year.
"We are looking at expanding this visa upon arrival to other markets, like for example we are discussing with the Indian market. Hopefully we will be able to allow also the Indian market to use this particular visa policy entry procedure," Canizal said in a press conference held at the DOT office in Makati City.
India has the second biggest population next to China, the DOT said.
The move came after the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it will be issuing “landing visas” in compliance to Department Circular 041 issued by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II granting visa upon arrival to Chinese nationals.
A landing visa allows a traveller to receive the actual visa at the airport of destination.
The new program is open to Chinese nationals who are members of tour groups organized by DOT-accredited tour operators, businessmen endorsed by local and foreign chambers of commerce and other government agencies, and athletes and delegates to conventions and exhibitions.
DOT Secretary Wanda Teo said the VUA will facilitate ease of travel among Chinese tourists in the Philippines.
“Through the Visa for Approval Program, travel agencies which are accredited by the DOT, can gather information such as the name of the tourist, passport number, and itinerary, among others for online processing to the Immigration office here in the country. Upon arrival, he/she will be issued a visa,” she said in an interview.
For his part, DOT Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Frederick Alegre said the department will be providing training courses on Mandarin language for tourist guides who will assist the Chinese nationals.
The VUA program will be implemented at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and in eight other international airports (Clark, Mactan, and Kalibo) and seaports (Manila, Puerto Princesa, Subic, Laoag, and Caticlan).
Under the rules, interested Chinese nationals may, through their tour operator, apply for their landed visas at the BI for an initial authorized stay of 30 days and they may apply for an extension up to a maximum period of six months.
The DOT is targeting 1 million Chinese tourist arrivals by the end of the year.
Following President Duterte’s state visit to China in mid-October 2016 and the lifting of Beijing’s travel restriction against the Philippines, Chinese arrivals surged to 675,663 by 2016, up by 37.65 percent from 490,841 in 2015, DOT records show.
The phenomenal increase in Chinese tourist arrivals continued into the first half of 2017 as it jumped 33.44 percent with 454,962 visitors compared to last year’s 340,958.
The DOT is likewise aiming for 7 million foreign tourists to arrive in the country by the end of 2017. (PNA)