INTERNATIONAL travel to the Philippines continues its uptrend as the country received 4.5 million foreign visitors from January to November 5. This represents 93 percent of the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) 4.8-million arrivals target this year.
This developed as the DOT launched the Bisita Be My (BBM) Guest program at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London, hoping to tap the sizeable Filipino population in the United Kingdom to spread the news about the Philippines and encourage more international visitors to the country.
Speaking at the launch, Philippine Ambassador to London Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. said the United Kingdom remains the Philippines’s largest source market for European visitors and through the BBM guest program, this would lead to more UK visitors. “If every Filipino in the UK brings one foreign visitor to the Philippines, that measures up to 200,000 more tourists, and that is a conservative estimate. The result will be the best time of their lives and their undying gratititude to the Filipinos who convinced them to visit our country,” he said.
‘Beauty has no borders’
DOT data showed visitors from the UK reached 126,473 from January to November 5, this year, making it the eighth top source market for tourists. In prepandemic 2019, arrivals from the UK reached 209,206, accounting for 4.06 percent of the 8.3-million arrivals that year.
Locsin added: “Tourism is a mutually rewarding experience together. Beauty has no borders. Happiness should have no barriers of country or language. There is enough in our country for all to stand beside each other and point [to] the inexhaustible beauty before them—the sun and the sky, and smiles of our people.”
The DOT, led by Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, is in London to attend the annual World Travel Mart (November 6-8), the largest travel and trade show in the Europe, and most influential in the world. More tourists from Europe are predicted to visit the Philippines when a free trade agreement is signed between the Philippines and the European Union. (See, “More European tourists seen with EU-PHL free trade pact,” in the BusinessMirror, September 21, 2023.)
Key tourist markets
Meanwhile, the DOT reported, of the 4.5 million international visitors received in the Philippines as of November 5, some 4.13 million were foreign nationals, while the rest were overseas Filipinos, or Philippine passport holders permanently residing abroad.
Visitors from South Korea topped the list of source markets at 1.19 million (or 26.4 percent of total arrivals); followed by the United States at 749,917 (16.7 percent); Japan at 251,913 (5.6 percent); China at 225,984 (5.02 percent); and Australia at 210,115 (4.7 percent).
Other major source markets for tourists as per DOT data were: Canada at 182,674 (or 4.06 percent of total arrivals); Taiwan at 168,813 (3.75 percent); UK at 126,473 (2.81 percent); Singapore at 120,700 (2.68 percent); and Malaysia at 80,537 (1.8 percent).
The DOT said in a news statement that Frasco also participated in the WTM Ministers’ Summit on November 6, which sought to address the current gaps in tourism education and to encourage young people to join the tourism workforce.
The tourism chief said her agency had prepared a five-year Philippine Tourism Human Capital Development Plan (2021- 2025) “to identify challenges and outline strategies to develop and harness world-class Filipino tourism professionals. It also has a strong and expansive Tourism Industry Skills Program, which provides free regular training sessions for formal and informal tourism workers to retool, upskill, and equip them with new knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.”