Taipei, Dec. 14 (CNA) The Filipino tourism attaché to Taiwan has expressed hopes that a travel bubble between the Philippines and Taiwan can be established next year, especially as there is a high rate of vaccination among tourism workers in the Southeast Asian country.
“We really look forward to having a bubble, a travel bubble, between Taiwan and the Philippines, at least for example Boracay or Bohol, because our tourism workers are fully vaccinated already,” said Hazel Habito Javier, director of the Philippine Department of Tourism in Taiwan, in an interview with CNA on the sidelines of a travel industry appreciation dinner in Taipei Monday.
“As for the community, the vaccinations are ongoing. And we are hoping by next year we will be able to push through with a bubble,” she said.
Boracay is famous for its pristine white beaches and lush tropic scenery, while Bohol is renowned for its Chocolate Hills and marine adventures.
But the actual timeframe for the bubble will depend on the quarantine requirements at the time, Javier said.
Currently, both the Philippines and Taiwan require inbound travelers to quarantine for 14 days, with varying guidelines for the times of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.
Also expressing his hope for travel between the two countries to kick off next year was Wilfredo B. Fernandez, the chairman and resident representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), who promoted the beauty of his country in a speech at the Monday event.
“Think of the finest sandy beaches, amazing diving locations, Filipino foods served with the warmest of smiles as one island-hops somewhere in the Philippines,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez also hoped to catch the ears of the Taiwanese audience by citing COVID-19 vaccination rates in the Philippines.
Metro Manila, which is populated by approximately 13 million people, is almost 99 percent fully vaccinated, Fernandez said, adding that hospitality industry workers in Boracay are 100 percent fully vaccinated, while Bohol, Palawan, and Cebu, as well as some other places, have over 80 percent vaccinations.
“Therefore, Philippine borders, especially for travel and recreation, are ready to welcome our closest neighbor Taiwan,” Fernandez said.
The importance of Taiwanese visitors was expressed by Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in an online video where she said Taiwan provided a significant source market for her country before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In fact, in 2019, Taiwan was [one of] our top five markets and brought in a total of 327,273 tourists, 35.01 percent higher compared to the previous year,” she said. “In 2019, the total spending of Taiwanese tourists in the country has reached US$252.1 million.”
Meanwhile, Hsiao Po-jen (蕭博仁), chairman of the Travel Agent Association of ROC, Taiwan, said at the same event that he also hoped Taiwanese will be able to visit the Philippines next year without needing to quarantine.
However, he pointed out that Taiwan will need to also do the same for returning tourists in order for the idea to work.
“It is hoped that our cooperation with the Philippine Department of Tourism can allow quarantine-free travel for tourists next year, because having it only for one-way is meaningless for Taiwan,” Hsiao said.
In response, Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told CNA that it was still too early to say about the duration of quarantine as it would depend on the COVID-19 pandemic situation at the time.
(By William Yen)
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