MANILA: The Philippine government announced on Sunday that it would work closely with Saudi Arabia to develop the travel and tourism sectors in both countries.
Since the nation's reopening to fully immunized foreign visitors in February, more than 9,400 Saudi tourists have traveled there. According to information from the Philippine Department of Tourism, Saudi Arabia was the main Middle Eastern source of visitors before the pandemic.
The formalization of their partnership with Saudi Arabia had been agreed upon by both countries, the tourism department said in a statement on Sunday.
The Philippines will "provide hospitality and human capital development to the Kingdom's tourism frontline," while the Kingdom will support the Philippines with Arabic-speaking tour guides, more direct flights, and the development of halal tourism.
The agreement was reached after Saudi counterpart Haifa Al-Saud and Philippine Tourism Secretary Cristina Garcia Fresco met in Riyadh last month.
In fact, Saudi Arabia ranks first in our Middle East source market. We believe the Philippines has enormous potential to welcome more immigrants, Fresco said, as quoted in the statement.
He continued by saying that since there are over 800,000 Filipinos living in Saudi Arabia, the relationship is mutual.
We have a long-standing affection for each other, and she declared, "I am very interested in strengthening this relationship by formalizing an agreement focused specifically on the development of tourism."
The Philippines, famous for its white sand beaches and world-renowned diving spots, depend on tourism. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the sector contributed about 13% to the country's GDP in 2019 and generated about $44 billion.
When the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in 2020, most of the country's tourist destinations were forced to close, dealing a severe blow to the sector. Foreign visitors fell 82 percent and tourism revenue fell to $17 billion.
As soon as this year's COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, efforts to revive the tourism industry are beginning to show results.
According to official statistics, as of 14 November, there had been approximately 1.5 million foreign visitors to the Philippines.