MANILA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine tourism stakeholders urged the government on Wednesday to relax the visa requirements for Chinese in a bid to attract more Chinese tourists into the Philippines.
Ryan Uy, the vice president of the Philippine Airlines, said relaxing visa requirements is "one easy solution" to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the Philippines.
"If you remove the visa requirements, and if we can grant them visa quickly similar to what we did to Japanese (tourists), the tourists will come," Uy said in a statement.
According to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), it was targeting 1.5 million Chinese tourists visiting the Philippines in 2018.
Uy said that visa is one of the biggest hurdles that tourists face if they wish to visit a particular country.
For instance, he said the Philippines can perhaps run a test or trials on how to go about reducing the visa requirements, especially for Chinese tourists.
Patria Chiong, the vice president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), echoed Uy, stressing the need to wave the visa requirements for Chinese tourists.
She said she agrees with Uy. "We can easily increase the arrivals from China (this year if we waive the visa requirement)," Chiong said in a separate interview with Xinhua.
PTAA President Marlene Dado Jante expressed hope that the Duterte government can investigate the proposal to repeal the visa requirements. "I hope that it will happen in the near future," she told Xinhua.
In August 2017, the Philippine government allowed visa-upon-arrival for Chinese visitors who are part of tour groups of DOT-accredited operators and businessmen. Applications should be filed 10 days before arrival.
In July last year, the Philippines said it was exploring ways to shorten the processing of visa-on-arrivals for Chinese nationals who wish to visit the Philippines, making their entry into the country faster and hassle-free.
DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon said the Department of Justice (DOJ) has already agreed to look into the proposal.
He said talks are underway between the two departments to "gradually make easier" the visa processing, especially for Chinese tourists. The Philippine Bureau of Immigration is under the DOJ.
As part of the plan, Bengzon said the government also mulls deploying Mandarin-speaking personnel to airports to better communicate with arriving Chinese tourists.
Tourism has now become one of the most critical support industries of the Philippines, and it is one of the sectors that has benefitted from the Philippines' renewed relationship with China. A growing Chinese tourist arrival was noted for the past three years.
From 490,000 in 2015 and 675,000 Chinese tourists in 2016, the number posted a significant increase in 2017 with 968,000 tourist arrivals.
Nearly 1.06 million Chinese tourists visited the Philippines in the first 10 months of 2018, making China the Philippines' second largest source market of foreign tourists.