Traveling With a Vengeance
One of the things that the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant lockdowns deprived us of was our mobility. It severely limited our ability to get out of the house, go to work, meet our friends, run our errands and just basically get some fresh air. The pandemic also halted our ability to travel to other countries — something Filipinos have been doing since the advent of cheaper flights and the popularity of social media which allowed us to share our experiences in strange lands to strangers.
We were trapped inside our houses contented with looking at the photos in our phones and reminiscing about our travel adventures in previous years. But then sometime in 2021, many countries began reopening their borders to travelers. And the buzzword known as revenge travel began to emerge. It refers to post-pandemic travel that involved trips to family reunions, revisiting favorite vacation spots, going on splurge vacations or simply spending time outside the city. Simply put, people traveled like crazy in order to make up for lost time during the pandemic.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. even mentioned this phenomenon during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) when he said: “Our tourism has always been a reliable pillar of our economic growth through the years, providing livelihood to more than five million of our citizens. Because of the reopening of the economy, and the phenomenon of ‘revenge travel,’ this sector is headed for a great rebound.”
The President hit the nail right on its head. Our tourism industry was one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic. Many lost their jobs because government- imposed restrictions limited the entry of tourists in the country. So everyone rejoiced when government started relaxing protocols and travel requirements in early 2022. According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), at the end of 2022, the tourism sector breached its 1.7 million target with 2.65 million international visitor arrivals as of Dec. 31 which brought in the ₱208 billion.
With other countries relaxing their own entry requirements, the Philippine government reverted the so-called holiday economics which started in 2001 with the expressed purpose of boosting tourism. The policy allowed certain movable holidays to be observed on a Monday or Friday to allow long weekends during the year.
One of those countries that relaxed entry requirements and welcomed Filipino tourists back was South Korea. The South Korean Embassy in Manila resumed the issuance of short-term tourist visa last June 1, 2022. Add to this the South Korean government also provided visa-free options for Filipino travelers. And this was a two-way love affair as South Koreans also flocked to the Philippines after the pandemic. This continued the trend in which South Koreans topped the list of visitor arrivals to the Philippines every year from 2010 to 2020, more than tourists from China, the United States and Japan.
This was one of the reasons why I was very happy when we inaugurated the new Korea Visa Application Center (KVAC) at Brittany Hotel in Taguig City. I met South Korean Ambassador Lee Sang-Hwa during the event and he told us that the opening of their visa center is in line with the Korean government's recent move to designate 2023-2024 as “Visit Korea Year.” He cited “the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations of the Philippines and Korea next year, as an important milestone in “the friendship and partnership between (our) two countries.”
On the part of the Villar Group we hope this effort would allow more Filipinos to explore and experience the beauty, culture and history of South Korea. The visa center, located on the 9th floor of Brittany Hotel BGC at 6 Mckinley Parkway in BGC, will help facilitate the visa application process allowing more Filipinos to travel.
I have always enjoyed traveling to other countries, especially with my family. One of the things I missed during the pandemic was the annual trips the whole family takes. It allowed us to reconnect, recharge and enjoy the experience of learning new cultures. As I have said in past articles, it also allows me to learn about new trends in real estate and retail.
Sometimes I would simply sit down at a cafe in Paris or Tokyo or LA and just observe. I love doing this because I believe Filipinos deserve to have world class experiences in their own country. This has defined our philosophy in developing properties and retail.