PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refund Program for foreign tourists for implementation in 2024 in an effort to boost tourism, Malacañang said Sunday.

The refund program was among the "Quick Wins" recommendations of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Tourism Sector Group.

Palace officials said Marcos will soon issue an executive order for the program, which is already in effect in other countries.

Other PSAC Quick Wins recommendations approved by the President include the rollout of the e-visa by 2023, prioritizing China and India.

It also recommended the removal of the One Health Pass (OHP), renamed as eARRIVAL Card, an all-in-one form for passengers' health, immigration and customs information which is a requirement for all arriving travelers.

The council, composed of business leaders and industry experts providing technical advice to the President, proposed instead a mobile application called e-Travel that will integrate all pertinent data on immigration, customs, health and quarantine status of a passenger.

The app, eyed for release later this month or early February, is being modified to allow groups or families for easy data input. It will have a database that will also include tourist destinations, transport and hotel information, as well as traffic conditions.

Travelers may complete the form through the app prior to boarding or while onboard the plane as long as they have a stable Wi-Fi connection.

The e-Travel app was welcomed by Marcos, who believes that digitalization will allow tourists to easily fill out forms while on the go and at the same time enable authorities to ensure stepped-up security at the country's borders.

The Philippines recorded 2.65 million visitors from February to December 2022 — 2.02 million foreign tourists and 628,445 Filipinos overseas.

This figure is higher than the 2021 tourist arrivals of 163,879 but far lower than the pre-pandemic level of 8.26 million, the Palace said.

This year, the Department of Tourism is targeting 4.8 million visitors, which could generate P2.58 trillion in revenues.

PSAC's Quick Wins proposals, which were presented to the President last week, also include improving airport facilities and operations, managing the national brand and image, as well as promoting tourism investments.

2023-01-29T16:20:51Z dg43tfdfdgfd