Governor Arthur Yap lauded China’s directive ordering all travel agencies to suspend sales of domestic and international group tours and travel packages as part of efforts to contain a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has killed over 100 people and left hundreds more ill.
The order was issued Friday last week by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism as the Chinese government scrambled to contain the deadly virus which emanated from Wuhan, China. The directive which halts the issuance of travel packages including airline tickets and hotel bookings was welcomed by the China Association of Travel Services calling for its members to “fully understand and support” the initiative.
Yap, who as then-congressman has been part of President Duterte’s power-packed entourage during his visits to Beijing, called on the Chinese government to expand the directive’s coverage.
“I encourage the Chinese Government to adapt the same pro-active response for all Chinese tourists that are outbound from affected localities in China bound for destinations outside of China to ensure the containment and eradication of the outbreak,” he said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The provincial government of Bohol has been wary of the entry of the dreaded disease into the province considering the heavy influx of Chinese tourists into the island.
Health authorities earlier said that around 300 passengers from China arrive at the Bohol Panglao International Airport, the province’s lone airport, weekly while Tagbilaran City Tourist Port manager James Gantalao said that “one-third” of the 9,000 passengers who go through the port daily are Chinese.
China has been noted to be the largest source of outbound travelers worldwide. According to the China Tourism Academy, Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018.
While the suspension in China only covers the group travel bookings and packages from tour agencies of the country, the move is still seen to have a significant impact in limiting the travel of Chinese tourists.
The China Tourism Academy has also reported that more than half of China’s overseas travelers, at 55 percent, in 2018 chose to avail of tour packages.
Yap also welcomed the Philippine Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) move to suspend “visa upon arrival” or VUA issuance to Chinese nationals.
“I also laud the decision of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) to suspend the issuance of visas upon arrival (VUA) to Chinese nationals in the wake of the outbreak,” he said.
The VUA is granted to tour groups screened by Department of Tourism-accredited operators in China and vetted by the BI. It is also granted to qualified businessmen, athletes, and convention or exhibit delegates.
The measure does not ban the entry of Chinese tourists into the country but BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said that it is meant to “slow down” the entry of tour groups.
Yap however called for caution in coming up with policies in relation to the outbreak in China, noting that while these may be aimed at preventing the entry of the nCoV, it could also “unnecessarily” damage the province’s tourism economy.
The governor said that the provincial government “can and will act pro-actively in protecting the health of Bohol’s residents and visitors in light of the outbreak, but will do so balancing the interest of protecting the local economy as well, from reactionary policies that may damage the tourism economy of Bohol unnecessarily.”
“We must understand that lives of those infected and may be infected due to the virus are very grave and critical as an issue affecting the safety of our people, and yet the lives of those who are part of our tourism economy may just as well be gravely affected by what we do during these days of anxiety,” he added.