OVER 3 million international travelers visited the Philippines from January to July 19, 2023, with South Korea topping the list of source markets.
In a news statement released on Wednesday, the Department of Tourism (DOT) also announced inbound tourism receipts in the first half of the year hit some P212.5 billion. This year’s spending by tourists was 13.3 percent less than the P245 billion recorded in the same period in pre-pandemic 2019. Inbound receipts are usually computed in US dollars then converted by the DOT to the local currency; the average foreign exchange rate in 2019 was P51.77 to a dollar, while this year’s average is P55.21.
Due to the change in data gathering by the Bureau of Immigration prompted by the pandemic, there was no exact reference period to compare visitor arrivals 2019.
But this year’s arrivals was about 73 percent of the 4.13 million who visited from January to June 2019, a possible indication that the gains in the tourism sector are picking up.
China still lags as source market
Of the total arrivals as of July 19, some 91.4 percent or 2.74 million were foreign tourists, while 8.64 percent or 259,277 were overseas Filipinos, defined as Philippine passport holders permanently residing abroad.
DOT data also showed South Koreans accounted for 24.72 percent of total visitor arrivals at 741,658. They were followed by tourists from the United States at 550,569 (or 18.35 percent of total); Australia at 146,062 (4.87 percent); Japan at 143,227 (4.77 percent); and Canada at 132,018 (4.4 percent).
China continued to lag as a source market with only 129,077 tourists, and accounting for just 4.3 percent of total arrivals as of July 19. It was followed by Taiwan with 104,211 (or 3.47 percent of total); United Kingdom at 85,847 (2.86 percent); Singapore at 81,656 (2.72 percent); and Malaysia with 54,411 (1.81 percent).
Although China just reopened its borders for outbound travel just in January, the DOT has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to speed up the processing of visas for Chinese tourists. (See, “DOT presses DFA on ways to lure Chinese tourists,” in the BusinessMirror, July 12, 2023.)
‘Grateful for renewed interest’
Frasco, meanwhile, continues to be steeped in the mess created by her agency’s “Love the Philippines” tourism slogan, where it was found that the video introducing the slogan contained images from foreign countries. The “Love” video was first shown in a tourism meeting in Cambodia, then to the public with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in attendance. (See, “‘Love the Philippines’ debuted in Cambodia, not in the Philippines–Indonesian minister,” in the BusinessMirror, July 6, 2023.)
Criticized for the DOT’s responsibility in the video mess, Frasco is now receiving backlash from netizens and opinion columnists for “loving Norway,” where her family jetted off for their vacation, instead of “loving the Philippines” as her agency urged international tourists and domestic travelers to do. Her husband, Rep. Duke Frasco inadvertently gave away their location after he posted photos having coffee in a room balcony and going to a gym in their hotel. The photos, which have since been deleted, were reported by several news sites.
Ironically, Frasco said in the news statement on the latest tourist arrivals, “We are grateful for the renewed interest worldwide in the Philippines which offers a multitude of reasons to love travel across our islands. We thank as well our fellow Filipinos who continue to travel domestically, supporting our local communities and families who are all part of the tourism value chain.” The DOT chief is expected to complete her official leave on July 21, 2023.