Travel firms study ties with S. Korean counterparts

TRAVEL agencies are looking to develop an exclusive partnership with their counterparts in South Korea in preparation for the resumption of operations.

The Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) in a press release on Tuesday said that it might negotiate an agreement with the Korean Association of Travel Agencies, where each party will provide a list of members they exclusively work with.

PTAA also hopes that the agreement would help standardize tour costs, create a recommended list of destinations, and set up a complaints committee.

“We would highly appreciate the drafting and signing of a memorandum of understanding wherein both sides will commit to only dealing with accredited travel agencies and tour operators that are members of both our associations,” PTAA President Ritchie Tuano said.

If signed, the potential agreement would be PTAA’s first same-level international partnership.

“Two-way tourism between our two countries have been growing over the past 10 years. We want that growth trajectory to continue long term,” Mr. Tuano said.

Tourist traffic between the two countries is high, with South Koreans leading tourist arrivals to the Philippines for the tenth year in a row last year with 1.99 million tourists.

Filipino tourism was South Korea’s eight largest market last year, with 503,867 arrivals.

PTAA is also asking South Korea for 100% visa-free entry for Filipinos.

The country earlier this year suspended some visa-waiver programs due to the pandemic, halting visa-free entry of Filipinos to Jeju island.

The Embassy of the Republic of Korea resumed short-term visa processing to Filipino business travelers and spouses of Korean citizens last July.

The tourism sector is one of the worst-hit industries during the pandemic, with revenue dropping 72% to P81 billion as of July 2020, the Tourism department said last month.

Last year, tourism contributed 12.7% to the country’s gross domestic product and employed 5.7 million people. — Jenina P. Ibanez

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