The Philippines is considering lifting visa requirements for Indian travellers, a move it said would help the country compete with the most-preferred Thailand and Malaysia by the Indians for holiday travel and business meetings.
“The Philippine tourism ministry has proposed to lift entry visa requirements for Indian tourists and the government is actively considering it. We are hopeful it may happen in the first quarter of the fiscal 2015-16,” said Glen Agustin, chief tourism operations officer of the southeast Asian nation, here today.
Around 60,000 Indians visited the Philippines last year, a growth of 15% from around 53,000 in 2013. The country’s tourism department expects the ongoing large tourism infrastructure projects would help them vie with other southeast Asian destinations to attract Indians for luxury travel, weddings and family holidays.
Agustin said India offered a huge potential for them considering one million Indians annually visit the neighbouring Thailand for tourism and other interests. Philippines, a conglomeration of 7,107 islands, he said, would become a huge draw among the growing Indian middle-class and the demand for corporate events.
Key to improving arrivals to the Philippines, he said, was the direct connectivity to its capital Manila and seamless airline operations within the country’s upcoming tourism destinations like Cebu, Bohol, Davao, Boracay and Palawi.
The island nation is set to host the 23rd Asia-Pacific Economic Conference 2015 later this year.
“We are presently operating Mumbai-Thailand-Manila and Mumbai-Singapore-Manila flights. We are however extensively lobbying with the private airlines to start direct services from India. There was a positive response from Cebu-Pacific Airlines and Cathay Pacific to launch direct services soon,” he said.
With major arrivals from top source markets like the US, Japan, China, Korea and Australia, the country ended 2014 at around five million visitors, a growth of about 5 percent over the previous year, according to the Philippines department of tourism.
As part of its roadshow events in India, the tourism department is upping its interface in Hyderabad as it considers the city, which saw 700,000 passport issuances in 2014, offering huge potential. Mumbai currently is the top metro contributing major tourists to the country.
It has declared 2015 as ‘Visit the Philippines Year’ and is promising ‘More Fun in Philippines, 2015’ for the global visitors.