China-Philippine travel booms on improving ties

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Philippine tour operators are optimistic that more than 1 million Chinese tourists will travel to the nation this year, due to a relaxed visa policy, the opening of new hotels and possibly more flights.

Stephen Techico, chairman of Philippine travel agency Uni-Orient Travel Inc, observed "a noteworthy change of perception" among Chinese tourists amid stronger diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries.

"The growth is palpable," Techico said on Thursday, when the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism was kicked off in Manila, the Philippine capital.

Vice-Premier Wang Yang, who is in the Philippines for a four-day visit, addressed the opening ceremony of the tourism year.

China and ASEAN are each other's largest overseas tourist destinations and largest sources of tourists, and more than 2,700 flights shuttle between both sides each week, according to Wang.

China hopes to work with ASEAN countries to further facilitate travel, strengthen promotion of tourist resources and expand mutual investment in tourism, Wang said.

Wang was scheduled to meet with the economic management team of the Philippine Cabinet and with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao on Friday.

The Philippine government recorded an increase in Chinese visa applications of more than 250 percent in the first two months of 2017, the Philippine newspaper Business Mirror reported.

And it is planning to allow the Chinese tourists to obtain a visa on arrival for their trips within 2017, Xinhua News Agency quoted Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo as saying in February.

Techico said he believes a visa-free policy would be more appropriate and efficient, as the procedure of visa on arrival may create hassles for the tourists and could affect the airport's capacity.

He said the two countries need time to figure out the best practices through continuous communication and cooperation.

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