CHINESE tourists helped boost the tourism industry in the Philippines last year, growing by an astounding 43.3 percent to 968,447 arrivals, or close to the 1 million the Beijing government promised it would send.
Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed that total visitor arrivals in the country increased by almost 11 percent to 6.62 million, exceeding the 6.5-million target of the Duterte administration under its National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2016-2022. This was lower, though, than the DOT’s 7-million “fighting target” for 2017, which took into account the 1-million commitment of Beijing.
Topping the list of source markets for the Philippines was still South Korea, which sent 1.61 million tourists, up 9 percent from the same period in 2016. It accounted for 24.3 percent of total market share, slightly lower than its 24.72-percent market share in 2016.
The mainland Chinese market ranked second among the top sources of tourists for the Philippines last year, edging out the usual No. 2, the United States. It accounted for 14.63 percent of the market share of tourists in the Philippines, a bump up from its 11.32-percent share in 2016.
The US slipped to third place with 957,813 tourists last year, up some 10.2 percent from 2016. It also accounted for some 14.5 percent of total market share, almost unchanged from the previous year.
Japan was in fourth place, with visitors growing by 9.14 percent to 584,180 in 2017, and accounting for a market share of 8.82 percent. This was also unchanged from 2016.
In fifth place was Australia, with arrivals up 3.3 percent to 259,433, which accounted for some 4 percent of total market share. This was slightly lower than the 4.21 percent market share recorded in 2016.
In a text message to the BusinessMirror, Tourism Director for Public Affairs and Advocacy Czarina Zara-Loyola expressed optimism that this year’s 7.4-million visitor arrivals target would be met, as well.
“Hopefully with the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, the availability of more airline seats and flight frequencies, and arrival of more cruise ships, we’ll be able to meet this year’s targets, too,” she said.
In a news statement, the DOT said it sees an even larger increase in Chinese visitors, as flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) brings in tourists from Xiamen, a city in the Fujian province, to Puerto Princesa starting February 10. The PAL flights were chartered by C&D Travel Service China, with the carrier using a 160-seater Airbus 320. More flights are scheduled on February 14 and 18.
“We continue to welcome more Chinese tourists to the country as part of the improved diplomatic relationship between Manila and Beijing since President Duterte’s state visit to China in 2016,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo said.
For his part, Tourism Undersecretary for Tourism Development Benito C. Bengzon Jr. said the DOT developed the Xiamen-Puerto Princesa route, which is expected to produce an additional 480 seats during the charter period. “This is on top of the other new routes that Chinese carriers have opened up direct to other tourist destinations in the Philippines last year,” he added.
The DOT is also working on developing a Tianjin-Puerto Princesa route in time for the Chinese New Year on February 16. “The development of new routes is in consonance with our NTDP’s strategy to improve air connectivity from major tourist source markets to the Philippines,” he stressed.
To also meet the growing demand of Chinese tourists wanting to visit Boracay, Xiamen Airlines mounted direct air commercial services from Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province, to Kalibo, Aklan using a 197-seat Airbus A321.
Launched on January 12, the carrier partnered with local travel agency Uni-Orient Travel for the three-times weekly flights. The new route will produce an additional 591 air seats per week.
Meanwhile, the DOT was unable to release the visitor receipts data for the entire 2017. But based on the latest data as of October last year, it is likely that the agency missed its P407-billion receipts target under the NTDP.
From January to October 2017, cumulative receipts reached P274.35 billion, up some 41 percent from earnings generated by the tourism industry in 2016. For the DOT to meet the receipts target, however, the industry needs to earn P132.65 billion in the last two months of the year, or at least P66.32 billion each month. Average earnings for each month last year was about P30 billion.
For October 2017 alone, visitor receipts grew some 89 percent to P31.12 trillion, with tourists spending an average of P6,862.03 per day. Each tourist also spent an average of P54,004.19 for their entire stay last October, when it was estimated that they stayed about 7.87 nights in the country.