Revenge travel…not

While October began with a renewed optimism for travel, it came with a dose of reality that somehow deflated such enthusiasm.

First, a low ranking on passport power brought home the fact that the Philippines will have to work harder at its economy and peace and order issues to attain good global standing in terms of travel freedom.

According to the Henley Index, Japan and Singapore are the world’s most powerful passports in 2022. The Henley Passport Index “Q3 2021 Factsheet” showed the Philippines dropping to 82nd place from 74th in the global index of passports.

Compared to other Asian countries, Filipinos have less number of countries they can visit visa-free. It means our citizens must go through the long and tedious visa application process just to go places, and that is another deterrent to this so-called urge for “revenge travel.”

Then again, the Philippine peso holds its own against certain currencies, even as its value dropped radically against the US dollar, making travel to western nations even more prohibitive nowadays.

An added factor that is making travel less easy than many imagined, even with the reopening of borders and easing of restrictions, is the continued presence of Covid-19.

After two and a half years, people have learned to “live with the virus,” as they say. Yet as attention depletes, especially on the extent of vaccination coverage in the country, we should continue to call for caution.

The newest variant called XBB was discovered in Singapore in August and has reportedly been found in some unnamed regions in the country.

The XBB is “a hybrid of Omicron’s BA.2.75 and BJ.1 sub-variants (that) has now appeared in 17 countries across the globe.” Why is it something to be wary of? Reports note that the variant has a “growth advantage” over BA.2.75 and “immune evasive property.”

The Department of Tourism reported 81 cases of XBB in the country this week. Thus far, the Philippines has logged a rise in Covid-positive cases in 12 provinces. The virus infection fell in the Metro but rose in the provinces. Today, a total of 3.97 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

Obviously, with the mandate for full face-to-face classes in effect by November, it remains to be seen how the latest Omicron variant will affect everyone given the eased restrictions and that itch to travel very much felt by the population.

Getting hit by an unwieldy Covid-19 variant is a complication no one would want at a time when the peso is weak, our passport power just as weak, and our optimism perhaps wavering at this point.

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