This photo is of the Manila NAIA Intl. Airport - Airside (Photo by Jay Solis)

This photo is of the Manila NAIA Intl. Airport – Airside (Photo by Jay Solis)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The number of African tourists to the Philippines, and the other way around, is going to increase at a faster rate as a result of the air agreement between Manila and Addis Ababa, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

The Addis Ababa-to-Manila route would increase foreign arrivals from Africa “faster than what we see in the traditional market,” Tourism Undersecretary Benito Benzon told reporters and guests in a program held for the inaugural flight of Ethiopian Airlines late Thursday.

Nearly 10 months after the Philippines and Ethiopia forged an air service agreement, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) welcomed the first commercial flight of Ethiopian Airlines.

“For the whole of Africa we’re only talking about 6,000 foreign visitors a year. In the current report that we’re generating, the figures for Ethiopia are not even presented,” Benzon told GMA News Online.

The Addis Ababa-to-Manila route is also expected to boost the number of Filipino tourists going to Ethiopia and other African countries.

“Ethiopia is the best gateway to the African continent. It’s located in a strategic place. That’s why we were able to increase our route to over 50 destinations in Africa,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Geremariam said.

Ethiopia, however, has no embassy in the Philippines. Its nearest embassy is located in South Korea.

“We are very serious towards this because it is a means to expedite [visa processing].  A Philippine delegation will go to Ethiopia in September to discuss many issues including this,” said Ethiopian Ambassador Dibaba Abdetta.

Provisions for special visas for Filipinos and Ethiopians are also being considered.

“The policy of the [Philippine] government is to relax the visa requirement. Last year, we extended the visa-free privilege from 21 days to 30 days for over a hundred countries. So the trend’s really to make it easier for foreigners to come in and one way of doing it is to relax the visa requirements,” Benzon said. (MNS)