MANILA, June 26 (Mabuhay) — The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Friday bared plans to allow foreign tourists from countries with relatively low cases of COVID-19 to visit certain tourist destinations in the country, in a bid to revive the hard-hit tourism sector.

“We are looking at in the near future, what we call travel bubbles or travel corridors,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said during the Laging Handa public briefing.

“Ibig sabihin, we are talking to different countries na halos walang COVID cases… na puwede na silang lumipad diretso sa tourist destinations,” Romulo-Puyat said.

The Tourism chief cited famous destinations such sa Bohol and Boracay since the tourist spots have their own international airports and have low cases of COVID-19.

“Since zero COVID naman sila, we are looking at from their country to Boracay or Bohol na puwede na tayo maka-travel bubble or travel corridor so at least hindi lang tayo limited sa international tourism,” she said.

Apart from Boracay and Bohol, the DOT is also considering Palawan as the province also has low cases of the diseases.

“Tinitignan din namin ‘yung countries like Australia and New Zealand… may option sila to fly sa mga islands with international airports,” Romulo-Puyat said, noting that there are 12 international airports all over the country.

“For example, Australia or New Zealand to Bohol,” she said.

Since most of the country shifted to modified general community quarantine, the government has allowed tourism activities to resume but at 50% operating capacity.

Tourism is also limited to domestic travel.

Romulo-Puyat said that the tourism sector, which employs 5.7 million as of 2019, has already lost 60% of revenue from January to May due to lockdown measures and strict travel restrictions implemented both locally and globally.

Because of this, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in March that P14 billion of the P27.1-billion spending plan to combat COVID-19 and provide economic relief to affected industries has been earmarked for the tourism sector.

Also in March, airlines rolled out discounted flights, while DOT-accredited hotels and resorts lowered their prices, offering as much as 70% off their published rates, in order to keep the tourism sector afloat.

As the tourism sector gradually resumes, the DOT is in close coordination with local government units as well as private stakeholders to ensure health protocols are in place, according to the Tourism chief.

“If this goes well, we will finally be able to accept [tourists from] countries wherein practically zero or low cases of COVID,” Romulo-Puyat said. (MNS)

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