Philippines opens to vaccinated medical travellers

The Philippines will re-open to fully vaccinated tourists and medical tourists from most countries on February 10. Unvaccinated foreigners will be banned from entry from February 16.

Tourism and medical tourism to the Philippines has been hit hard by both the pandemic, and a super typhoon that hit the country in December, wiping out resorts, restaurants and bars in popular tourist destinations.

A previous plan to welcome back tourists from December 1 was suspended after the emergence of the Omicron variant. More than half of the country’s 110 million people are fully vaccinated.

The new rules allow for visa-free travel for short visits by nationals from 157 countries. Fully vaccinated tourists from countries on the list need to test negative for Covid-19 shortly before flying to the Philippines but will not have to quarantine on arrival.

The list excludes China, the Philippines’ fastest-growing tourist market, as well as Taiwan and India. But it includes the United States, the main source of medical tourists.

Tourism is a major driver of the Southeast Asian country’s economy, with more than eight million people in 2019 but only 1.48 million in 2020. Inbound medical tourism has not fully taken off, despite political promises and money and time spent on marketing.