DAVAO CITY—The Philippines is expecting to breach the 2 million mark in South Korean tourist arrivals this year and maintain its position as the leading foreign nationals visiting the country, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Noe Albano Wong said.
Wong said the numbers would rectify the common belief that the Chinese led the statistics in foreign arrivals in the country. “South Koreans are the No. 1 tourists in the Philippines, and not Chinese,” he told reporters in Busan during the state visit of President Duterte.
Wong’s statement was carried by the communication dispatch of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“We have already reached 1 million. And in fact, as of December of 2018, we had 1,651,282,” Wong said.
He added that the country’s target was to have 2 million South Korean tourists going to the Philippines by year-end. Citing a report by the Department of Tourism in Seoul, he said the first nine months of this year showed the arrivals to have already exceeded that of the same period last year.
“We look forward to this October, November, December, that we will be able to reach the 2 million for reason that you know, this is winter time in Korea, from now on up to maybe March of next year,” Wong said.
He said the thrust on sustainable and responsible tourism helped attract tourists to the country. “Those two policies allow the country to make a striking balance between business opportunities, environmental protection, and social responsibility.”
“We do not want to have a repeat of what happened to Boracay when the President has to force the closure of Boracay, and so on and so forth,” he noted. “So that’s why we have this environmental protection, social responsibility, and business opportunities.”
He also cited the several airline connections between the two countries as contributing to the influx of South Koreans, among them were Asiana, AirAsia, Air Busan, Air Seoul, Jet Air, East Star, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, and Pan Pacific Airlines.
He said the country added 14 flights last week with the opening of three other tours, Daegu to Kalibo, Incheon to Bohol, and Gwangju to Clark.
He said the Philippines competes with other countries in the Asean in attracting South Korean tourists, “most notably against Thailand and Vietnam. Vietnam lords it over in terms of the number of arrivals of Korean tourists.”
So far, there are approximately 93,000 South Koreans living in the Philippines for business, studies, or leisure, Wong said, noting an imbalance, with only 58,000 Filipinos in South Korea. Most Koreans go to the Philippines to learn English, he added.
Wong said the Philippines would raise with South Korea the issue of visa issuance, saying most Asean countries do not require visa for the first 30 days of stay. “For Filipinos wanting to go to South Korea, however, there’s a need to secure a visa,” he said.
“We are trying to raise that issue on a quid pro quo because almost every time Filipinos here will come, we have to get visa,” he said.
President Duterte is attending the 2019 Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit. He was slated to hold bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.