FOREIGN tourists continue to make their way to the Philippines, boosting inbound arrivals by 9.74 percent to some 4.31 million from January to July 2018.
Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) also showed foreign visitor arrivals in July 2018 alone rising by 5.86 percent to 601,322. No data was made available for internal visitor receipts, however.
South Korea continued to top the list of major tourism markets of the Philippines, contributing 937,227 tourists in the first seven months of the year. But this was only 1.08 percent higher than the number of South Koreans who visited in the same period in 2017.
The data also showed the market share of South Korea shrinking to 21.76 percent in the first seven months of 2018, compared to its 23.62-percent share the previous year.
Driving much of the inbound tourism traffic was China, growing by 40 percent to 764,094 arrivals from January to July 2018. The country is now the second largest source of tourists for the Philippines.
The warming of relations between Beijing and Manila after President Duterte’s visit in October 2016, resulted in China lifting its travel ban to the Philippines. It has promised to send 1 million tourists a year to the country.
Dropping to third place was the United States, which contributed 649,496 tourists to the Philippines, up 8.35 percent from the same seven-month period in 2017.
Japan was in the fourth spot, sending 366,649 tourists to the Philippines, an increase of some 7.4 percent from the reference period last year.
In fifth place was Australia, with arrivals up some 6.7 percent to 161,077 in the first seven months of the year.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat attributed the substantial increases in foreign visitor arrivals this year “to the contributions of the private sector through the development of tourism products, and through their investments in the sector.”
She added, “these figures indicate how tourism can help expand the economic opportunities for Filipinos, and narrow the gap of poverty and inequality in the country.”
Under the National Tourism Development Plan of 2016-2022, the DOT is targeting 7.4 million foreign visitor arrivals, which will likely generate P407 billion in inbound tourism receipts this year.
Along with the rise in domestic travelers to 76.3 million, and an increase in tourism receipts to P2.13 trillion, employment in the tourism sector is projected to rise to 5.6 million this year. The DOT hopes this will help 556,000 poor beneficiaries.
The DOT chief expressed optimism that “with the roll-out of a comprehensive branding campaign in the coming months and the scheduled reopening of a better Boracay on October 26, we will hit, or better yet, surpass our target of 7.4 million for 2018.”
Substantial increases in visitor arrivals were also accounted for by Canada, which rose 12.21 percent to 138,467; Hong Kong, up 21.42 percent to 79,488; and India, up 15.15 percent to 74,039.
Among the Philippines’s top source markets for tourists, Taiwan continued its downtrend, with the seven-month period this year showing a 3.31-percent dip to 145,593 arrivals.
Other major tourism markets for the period in review were the United Kingdom, which accounted for 121,289 visitor arrivals (up 9.4 percent); Singapore at 104,880 (up 7.3 percent); and Malaysia at 84,698 (up 2.24 percent).
In a bid to further encourage more foreigners to travel to the Philippines, the Tourism Promotions Board will be hosting the Philippine Travel Exchange (Phitex) 2018 from August 28 to 30 at the Marriott Hotel Grand Ballroom.
Now in its 17th year, the biggest government-organized travel trade event in the country, will gather under one roof, international delegates to participate in business meetings with accredited Philippine tourism suppliers.
In a news statement, the TPB said this year’s theme, “Tourism is our Business; Guarding Our Environment, Reliving Our Culture,” will highlight the importance of conserving the country’s natural resources. “As traveling significantly impacts our world, it is crucial to curb its negative effects to ensure long-term economic growth,” said TPB Officer in Charge Arnold T. Gonzales.
“Bringing culture to the forefront of exploration is also paramount to the country’s success. Through it, we gain a complete understanding of the nation’s identity that is essential to the betterment of our relations, especially with the world,” he added.
Headlining the list of speakers are former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who will conduct a seminar on sustainable tourism, and Cultural Center of the Philippines President Arsenio “Nick” J. Lizaso. who will talk about culture and tourism. Their seminars will be held on August 30 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, at the Ceremonial Hall of the Marriott Hotel.
“Advocating responsible tourism, promoting cultural exchange and fostering sustainable practices to preserve the country’s attractions will all serve as points for discussion to encourage participation from all sectors to spur economic growth,” Gonzales averred.