President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has approved the implementation of the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refund Program for foreign tourists by 2024 in an effort to boost tourist arrivals in the country.
Aside from the (VAT) Refund Program for foreign tourists, other Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Quick Wins recommendations approved by the President include the rollout of e-visa by 2023, prioritizing China and India; and the removal of One Health Pass (OHP) or requirement of one form only for health, immigration and customs.
The revocation of outdated advisories and loud-speaker announcements in the country’s airports and the automatic inclusion of travel tax in all airline tickets were also among PSAC’s Quick Wins recommendations.
According to Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil, President Marcos will issue an executive order to implement the tax refund program, which is also being carried out in other countries.
The Quick Wins proposals, which were presented by PSAC to the chief executive during a meeting in Malacañang, are aimed at further boosting the country’s tourism industry, including improving airport infrastructure and operations, managing the national brand and image, as well as promoting tourism investments, among others.
PSAC officials also told the President that they are working on a mobile app called e-Travel, which integrates all of the information on immigration, customs, health, and quarantine. The app, which could be deployed within this month or in February, is being modified to allow groups or families for easy data input, they said, adding the database will also include tourist destinations, transport and hotel information, as well as traffic condition.
Tourists can complete the form through the app before boarding or while onboard the plane as long as they have Wi-Fi connection.
The President highlighted the importance of digitalization, which, he said, could allow tourists to easily fill out those forms while traveling and at the same time, enable authorities to ensure security at the borders.
The Philippines recorded 2.65 million visitors from February to December 2022 (2.02 million foreign tourists and 628,445 Filipinos overseas).
This figure is higher than the 2021 tourist arrivals of 163,879 but still significantly lower than the pre-pandemic level of 8.26 million. This year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) targets to welcome 4.8 million visitors, which could generate P2.58 trillion in revenue.