MANILA – More than 1,000 delegates from Southeast Asian nations and Tourism stakeholders called for a unified health passport to facilitate seamless travel for tourists at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit last April 20 – 22.

“Actually, we are talking (to) start first with ASEAN, Southeast Asia in unifying our health protocols,” Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

“What’s more important is to make it less tedious so that you don’t have to answer so many things and for the traveler to just not think that it’s such a burden to travel. We want to make it as seamless as possible,” she added.

Citing as an example the European Union’s green travel pass or the Digital Covid Certificate currently followed by 62 countries, WTTC President and CEO Julia Simpson said countries could use one platform interfacing their respective systems and tourists’ phones as it will be difficult to adopt each other’s health protocols.

“What it does mean for the 62 countries is, for people traveling in and out of any of those 62 countries, you have one simple system. So, we’re talking about it with Asia Pacific ministers because at the moment if you travel to Thailand, the system is different from the Philippines, which is also different from Cambodia. So, they are actually, within the Asia Pacific, looking at trying to coordinate at a ministerial level,” Simpson said.

“This is obviously a responsibility of governments but (at) WTTC, we are really pushing them hard to do this,” she added.

Data from WTTC noted that in 2020, US$23.3 trillion contributed by the Travel and Tourism sectors in the Asia Pacific fell by 59 percent to US$1.36 trillion due to the COVID-19 pandemic which also displaced at least 35 million Tourism workers.

WTTC’s latest Global Economic Impact report, on the other hand, predicted Travel and Tourism to reach US$2.7 trillion by the end of 2022 and recover US$3.4 trillion by 2023.

“Recovery is in our sights. It is not uniform; it is faltering but it is recovering. Here in Asia-Pacific, the re-opening is just beginning. I congratulate the Philippines, a nation that has shown determination and courage to reignite travel,” Simpson said.

PH Tourism recovery by 2023

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Simpson said the Philippines’ Tourism sector might fully recover in 2023 as it had been able to earn $93 billion before the pandemic.

With the forecast, Simpson said the Philippines is “poised for a very strong recovery.”

Simpson said a global health passport for traveling will be the next challenge for governments.

“I think that now that people are vaccinated, what would be really helpful is for people to have digital travel documents inside their mobile phones,” Simpson said.

“Let us get this digital. I think that probably (is) the next big challenge for governments globally and governments here in the Philippines,” she added.

QR code system urged in Boracay to control the number of tourists

In another report by ABS-CBN News, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for a QR code system after the tourist hotspot suffered overcrowding last Holy Week.

According to DENR, the island can only accommodate 19,215 tourists every day while tourist numbers swelled by up to 22,000 between April 14 and 15, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Under the QR code system, the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation and Management Group (BIARMG) proposed checking the number of passengers and visitors of shipping, airlines and hotels to avoid overbooking.

The BIARMG also proposed the use of the system for contact tracing to determine the number of tourists entering the island.

DENR Undersec. Jonas Leones said they will study if it is possible to increase the island’s carrying capacity.

Previously, Romulo-Puyat reiterated the need to maintain the island’s designated carrying capacity.