MANILA – The Philippines has temporarily banned travelers from the coronavirus-impacted North Gyeongsang province, but the move has yet to have a huge effect on the country’s tourism.
Howard Lance Uyking, Assistant Secretary for branding and marketing communications, took the opportunity on Thursday to clarify that the government has yet to deny entry of travelers from other parts of South Korea, as believed by some people.
“To dispel some news going around social media, we did not impose a ban on the entire South Korea,” he said. “This is more of sa Gyeongsang province. I think there are three flights from there [to the Philippines].”
“Kasi iyon lang naman ‘yung area na affected eh,” he went on. “And we believe in South Korea’s protocols because they kept it from our main market, which is Seoul.”
Uyking said South Korea remains the biggest tourism market, not citing figures. Last year, the Philippines welcomed a total of 8.26 million tourists across the globe, a 15.2% growth from 2018.
While only Gyeongsang is currently covered by the travel restrictions, the government is already considering a wider ban on South Korea for being the country most affected by COVID-19 after China.
Uyking admitted that Philippine tourism will certainly take a hit should this happen, but they will not stop in their efforts to promote the country in other markets that show potential, such as Western Europe.
“South Korea, of course, is our number one market. It goes without saying na it will be affected [should the countrywide ban be imposed]. But let’s hope and pray na hanggang doon lang sa province [ang ban],” he said.
Filipino tourists are temporarily not allowed to travel to South Korea as a preventive measure against COVID-19.
Exempted from the ban are Filipinos who are workers, students, and permanent residents of South Korea, as long as they sign a declaration signifying their knowledge of the “risks” of traveling there.