Dec 2, 2020
SLOWLY EMERGING from one of the longest national lockdowns of the pandemic, the Philippines can usually count on tourism for 12.7 percent of GDP. But due to the global Covid crisis, the industry has suffered a loss of some Php190 billion. Thankfully, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT), domestic travel accounts for 85 percent of the industry. “With the majority of international borders still closed for tourism, we are counting on domestic travel to lead recovery,” says the tourism secretary, Berna Romulo-Puyat. “It is fortunate that our domestic tourism has been performing even better than expected over the last few years.”
Strict safety protocols are in place and vary for each destination. “We support the reopening of tourism in the Philippines provided that safety protocols are implemented,” Romulo-Puyat says. “While tourism can help revive the country’s economy, we put health and safety as our top priority.” A common denominator is the requirement of a valid PCR test before travel along with health declarations. It’s best to check with the local authorities, the airline and your hotel to be sure.
The country’s most popular island, Boracay–which had only reopened to tourism late last year after temporarily shutting for a cleaning and greening rehab–was one of the first to re-open post-pandemic in October. Fave luxe resorts such as Shangri-la, The Lind, Discovery Shores and Crimson are all operational and ready to welcome guests back to the pristine white shores and iconic sunset.
Voted for the fourth time this year by Travel+Leisure readers as the Best Island in the world, parts of Palawan are beginning to accommodate travelers. El Nido’s striking emerald lagoons and limestone cliffs are now accessible via daily flights with Air Swift. However, the island’s other airports–Puerto Princesa and San Vicente–remain closed. There are 22 DOT certified hotels that are currently open in El Nido including: Miniloc Island Resort, Pangulasian, Panorama and Casa Kalaw. Although public beaches are shut for the time being, activities like island-hopping and scuba diving will be allowed through accredited tour operators in the second phase of the opening.
Those looking for the ultimate escape can fly directly to Amanpulo, in the Pamalican Islands just off Palawan’s main island. The luxe resort requires stringent testing pre-flight to ensure it’s 100-percent Covid-free, and therefore can operate 100-percent mask-free.
After months of tight quarantine measures, the boho surf capital of Siargao has opened its runway to flights resuming just this week, December 1. “This is encouraging news for everyone who loves the sea, especially the surfers,” Romulo-Puyat says. “As Siargao reopens to travelers, subject to minimum health and safety standards, the people of the island will regain their livelihood and share their paradise to our kababayans once more with the same level of hospitality they have always been known for.”
Famous for its chocolate hills, winding coastal roads, marine life and colonial churches, Bohol is also currently accepting tourists. Amorita, Bellevue, Panglao Blue Water and Henann are all ready to serve.
The DOT has also encouraged road trips and moto-touring for people to explore beyond the capital of Manila. Masungi, the eco-reserve located in Rizal province, is welcoming small groups that have booked in advance, and practices safe social distancing measures on their hikes and treks. Other destinations that are now open for tourism in Luzon are: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Baguio City, Laguna, Bataan and Batangas.
Alas, for foreign tourists, they’ll have to wait until the second half of 2021 for Philippines’ fun in the sun. However, investor and work visas are being rolled out slowly to encourage more foreign investment while the world gets Covid under control. Visit the Bureau of Immigration and Department of Foreign Affairs for more information on who is allowed to enter the Philippines.