THE DEPARTMENT of Tourism has identified South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan as potential partner countries for specialized tour groups once international travel resumes.

“(We’re) looking at possibilities for maybe specialized charters that will bring various tour groups straight into destinations that are already prepared to welcome the tourists eventually,” Tourism Assistant Secretary Verna C. Buensuceso said in a webinar last week.

While leisure international travel is at a standstill amid a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, Ms. Buensuceso said the department is preparing plans for fully vaccinated travelers and coming up with health protocols for the tour groups.

“Right now, there is actually a special working group in the interagency taskforce that is looking into particular green lanes that we can open up for vaccinated travelers in the future,” she said.

“We’re looking especially for those that deal with tourism stakeholders, possibly coming up with green lanes for tourism groups that will go straight from certain markets into specific destinations of the country.”

These plans and the health protocols will need approval from the interagency taskforce on the coronavirus when the time comes, she said at an event organized by the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and Santos Knight Frank.

The Tourism department has so far developed 44 tourism circuits, or clusters of tourism attractions. Another 71 are in the pipeline.

International tourism revenue in 2020 plummeted 83% to P81.4 billion after the number of visitors fell. — Jenina P. Ibañez