Korean tourists, businessmen seen to return to PH as vaccine drive gains ground

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 28) — The Korean Chamber of Commerce Philippines expects local tourists and businessmen to return to Manila, given the progress in its COVID-19 vaccination drive.

"This time, I think we have (the) vaccine now and the Philippines will be normal soon and economy will recover. Which means the Korean tourists, the 2 million, they will be here. Our businessmen will come back here," KCCP president Lee Ho Ik told CNN Philippines' The Exchange.

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The 2 million figure refers to the average number of Koreans who travel to the Philippines every year for leisure purposes before the pandemic struck, according to Lee. The country's white sand beaches and beautiful sceneries in general attract them, he added. Given this, Lee also cited tourism as a key factor in reviving the coronavirus-battered economy.

The Korean business leader also noted how 30-40% of nationals residing in the country returned home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Majority of Korean retail firms such as restaurants also closed shop, he added.

Firms left and right have been forced to scale down operations or even shut their doors for good as they grapple with dampened business and consumer activity due to the global health crisis.

Still, Lee advises the country should now think about how to move forward.

"I think this is the time to prepare (for) what happens after the pandemic," he said.

The Philippines is among the countries known for riding the Korean wave - otherwise known as K-wave or Hallyu - which is a global phenomenon of immense popularity of K-pop and K-dramas.

This earlier gave Korean businesses like restaurants and groceries in the country a big boost, which Lee said was good for Korean businessmen and Filipino consumers alike.

The Philippine government is now ramping up vaccinations especially among health workers, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities, and gearing up for inoculating economic frontliners in areas with high COVID-19 transmission, all in a bid to speed up economic recovery.