SOUTH Korea continues to top the list of the Philippines’s major source markets for tourists in the first half of 2017.
Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) show arrivals from South Korea reaching 795,085 from January to June 2017, still accounting for almost a quarter of the total visitor arrivals for the period in review. Said arrivals from South Korea also rose by some 15.9 percent from last year’s 686,118.
The first half of the year yielded 3.35 million foreign visitors, up 12.73 percent from the same period last year. “Another milestone is reached as visitor count for the first six months surpassed the 3-million arrivals mark surpassing the 2,978,438 count for the same period last year,” said Director Mila Say of the DOT’s Office of Tourism Development Planning, Research and Information Management, in her memorandum for Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo dated August 4.
But the agency again failed for the third time, to release its cumulative visitor receipts data, although in its accomplishment report issued before President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, it said receipts reached P222.3 billion from July 2016 to May 2017. No explanation was issued by the agency regarding the delay in the release of the current visitor receipts report.
Meanwhile, ranked as the second top source of foreign tourists was the US, with 513,443 arrivals, up 13 percent from the same period last year. Visitors from the US accounted for some 15.3 percent of total arrivals for the six-month period in 2017.
In third spot was China, with a 33.4-percent jump in arrivals to 454,962, accounting for a 13.6-percent share in total arrivals for the period.
Teo expressed confidence that it would reach the agency’s target of 1 million Chinese tourists this year, “and it will exceed the arrivals from the US”. The Beijing government committed the said number of Chinese tourists this year, as ties with Manila warmed with Duterte setting aside The Hague arbitral tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea issue.
In fourth place was Japan, which sent 294,080 visitors to the Philippines in the first half of the year, up 12.8 percent. Japan represented some 8.8 percent of total arrivals for the period.
Ranked fifth was Australia with 130,992 arrivals, up 3.8 percent from the first half of 2016. The market accounted for almost 4 percent of total visitor arrivals for the six months to June 2017.
Other major tourism markets for the Philippines in the first six months of the year was: Taiwan 127,017 (+13.3 percent); Canada 108,243 (+18.4 percent); the United Kingdom 93,649 (+7.8 percent); Singapore 85,207 (-7.5 percent); Malaysia 72,211 (-0.12 percent); and Hong Kong 55,653 (-9.5 percent).
Tourists from India grew a substantial 23.4 percent to 54,663, making it a potential market to further develop. Other strong markets include France with 38,890 arrivals (+25 percent); Russia 19,365 (+39 percent); Vietnam 21,903 (+22.5 percent); and the Netherlands 17,839 (+12.4 percent).
On a month-on-month basis, however, tourist arrivals in June 2017 alone appear to be weak, with decreases noted even from neighboring markets in Asia, such as Singapore (-8 percent), Thailand (-19.5 percent), Hong Kong (-21 percent), South Korea (-1.2 percent), Macau (-23.3 percent) and Taiwan (17.7 percent). Even visiting overseas Filipinos fell by 19.7 percent in June 2017 from June 2016.
In a text message to the BusinessMirror, DOT Spokesman and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Communications and Special Projects Frederick M. Alegre explained: “It is due to seasonal factors and, admittedly, there is an effect from the declaration of martial law and travel advisories from foreign governments [regarding terror threats in the south].”
But he was quick to add that the DOT is “launching a massive campaign in its major markets: Korea, China and Japan” to counteract the slowdown in arrivals.
Duterte declared martial law in the entire island region of Mindanao on May 23, owing to the clashes between government troops and purported elements of the jihadist terror groups. Prior to the clashes, foreign governments already warned of possible terror threats in Central Visayas and Mindanao, advising its citizens to avoid these areas.
For June 2017, total visitor arrivals rose a slight 3.42 percent to 474,854. On a monthly basis, visitor arrivals have been declining from its peak of 631,639 reached in January 2017. Subsequent months showed the slowdown in arrivals: February, 579,178; March, 574,065; April, 565,098; and May, 532,757.
June 2017 also showed the lowest annual growth rate at 3.42 percent, coming from May at 19.6 percent; April, 19.8 percent; March, 12.5 percent; February, 5.36 percent; and January, 16.5 percent.
Due the monsoon season, overall visitor arrivals are expected to remain weak, but are seen picking up by October or November.