Tourists arrive at Lio Airport, El Nido. (Photo courtesy of the Palawan PTPDO)

Tourism arrivals in Palawan have surged significantly in the previous week compared to last year as travel restrictions loosen.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) is optimistic that tourist arrivals in Palawan will increase in the coming days since travel restrictions have already been lifted by local government units (LGUs).

El Nido, in particular, saw its highest single-day tourist arrivals at 532 on February 25 since the town reopened in September 2020, according to a statement by the Palawan Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development Office (PTPDO). Local sources also reported that more than 90 tourist boats were deployed for island tours.

The PTDPO reported a total of 11,298 arrivals on February 23, with 643 of them being foreigners.

According to DOT MIMAROPA regional director Atty. Bevienne Malateo, while it is too early to tell if the coming months will yield even higher arrivals for El Nido, they are positive that reduced restrictions will eventually bring more tourists.

“Last year the tourist arrival in El Nido is 27,682 when it opened. From Feb. 10 to 27, 2022, is 3,553. The projection we have to date is not reliable in the absence of comparable data, but we are optimistic that it will gradually increase taking into account the reduction in entry requirements,” she said in an interview through Facebook Messenger on Tuesday.

“On the other hand, the same projection may not apply to San Vicente. It has yet to review its entry requirements,” she added.

Currently, El Nido still requires fully-vaccinated tourists coming from outside Palawan to secure a negative antigen test result 48 hours prior to arrival. Partially or unvaccinated tourists from outside Palawan, on the other hand, need negative RT-PCR test result 48 hours prior to arrival. All types of tourists are also still required to log in with the S-PASS system.

The El Nido LGU is currently working towards removing the S-PASS and antigen requirements through a municipal executive order (EO), according to the provincial tourism office. According to DOT undersecretary Engr. Chris Morales, even if the province is under Alert Level 2, El Nido can further relax its restrictions on tourists to encourage more arrivals.

“Nasa LGU na lang if they think situation permits to add additional requirements such as testing for fully vaccinated [travelers], especially din if coming from lower alert level naman na like NCR,” Morales said on Tuesday through Facebook Messenger.

“That being said, it is possible for LGU to remove some of the travel restrictions even if the rest of Palawan is under Alert Level 2 provided that they followed the minimum prescribed in the IATF resolution,” he added.

Coron, on the other hand, also recorded a high number of arrivals at the Francisco Reyes Airport on Wednesday. Fully-vaccinated tourists in Coron are no longer required to secure a negative antigen test, but still need to fulfill an S-PASS application.