In a move expected to greatly increase international arrivals, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is set to soft launch an electronic visa (e-visa) system for Chinese visitors, starting August 24. The new system is aimed at enhancing convenience for visitors and revitalizing the tourism sector in the Philippines.
The e-visa initiative forms part of a broader strategic goal of the DFA to optimize ICT for consular services, under directives from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. aimed at facilitating ease in doing business and stimulating the tourism sector.
The e-visa system, a product of a memorandum of understanding between the DFA and the Department of Information Communications Technology, allows Chinese nationals wishing to visit the Philippines to apply for their visas online, either through the website or a designated app. The application process includes providing personal and travel details, answering security questions, uploading necessary documents, and selecting the type of visa required, either single entry or multiple entry for various purposes including tourism and business. A fee of $25 for single entry visas and $60 for multiple entry visas is applicable, though these amounts are currently under review. Processing times range from 3 to 8 days for single entry visas, and up to 30 days for multiple entry visas.
Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco expressed optimism about the positive impact the e-visa system will have on international arrivals. The Chinese market has been singled out as a priority due to its significant contribution to the Philippines’ tourism sector in the past. Before the pandemic, China was the Philippines’ second-largest tourist market, with a record 1.7 million visitors in 2019. The implementation of the e-visa system is expected to facilitate easier travel for these visitors and to recover tourism numbers, which have dwindled during the global pandemic.
The system is also expected to encourage the return of airlines, charter operators, and travel agents, who can resume flights from China to various tourist destinations in the Philippines. Destinations include popular locations such as Boracay, Bohol, Cebu, Legazpi, Clark, Laoag, Lallo, and Manila, which can now look forward to an influx of tourists, thanks to the eased and expedited visa processing.
While the Philippines initiates its e-visa system, China also resumed issuing all types of visas in March 2023, after gradually dismantling its own COVID-19 travel restrictions.
As both countries move towards digitalization and ease of travel, it seems the future of international tourism could lie in the embrace of technology to facilitate seamless travel experiences for tourists. With the Philippines setting its sight on offering the e-visa to other countries beyond China, it is clear that the digitization of travel documents is becoming a global trend and an effective tool in the recovery of the global tourism sector.