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Retirement industry leaders: Long-stay visas will expand PHL 'silver market'

The Philippines should look into providing long-stay visas, setting up retirement communities and improving its healthcare to attract more retirees to the country, retirement industry stakeholders said at the 3rd Philippine Retirement and Healthcare Summit in Makati on Tuesday. Long-stay visas would give older tourists the opportunity to see if living in the country would work for them, said one of the summit's speakers. “Retirees want to test out living in the Philippines and the best way to do that is using long-stay visas that allow visitors to stay in the country for at least six months,” said European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) external vice-president Henry J. Schumacher, who is also chairman of the Retirement and Healthcare Coalition (RHC). Tourist visas currently have a validity of 21 days, extendable to 30 days. At the summit, Tourism Undersecretary Daniel G. Corpuz said that the government is discussing the possibility of lengthening this to 90 days. Schumacher added that making the visas multiple-entry and renewable would make them more attractive to retirees thinking of visiting the Philippines. Retirement communities that offer activities specifically targeted to retirees, improving geriatric care and becoming more transparent with healthcare costs would greatly help the Philippine retirement market, said Schumacher. “The Philippines should also look into putting in the right products that would increase life expectancy,” said Ageing Asia Pte. Ltd founder and managing director Janice Chia. The speakers at the summit all noted that the Philippines has a strong competitive advantage in its health care workers, who work all over the world. However, the top medical tourism destinations in the Asia-Pacific are still Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, with the Philippines still lagging behind. 15th most preferred destination The Philippines is already 15th most preferred destination for medical tourism and retirement, according to a survey released by International Living Magazine in December last year. The “silver market” in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to reach $3 trillion by 2017, with the Philippine market reaching $6 billion in the same period, up 100 percent from 2012, said Chia. Corpuz said the Departments of Health, Tourism and Trade and Industry are in the process of preparing a Retirement Roadmap. “Part of the roadmap is a promotions strategy to countries with large number of Filipinos like the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom,” he said.  — BM, GMA News