SOUTH Korea continued to be the top source of tourists for the Philippines, sending 815,683 of its citizens from January to June 2018.
This developed as visitor arrivals in the first half of 2018 reached an all-time high of some 3.71 million, a 10.4-percent increase from the same period last year, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Separate DOT data obtained by the BusinessMirror show, however, that while the South Korean market accounted for a 22-percent share of total arrivals, the growth in South Korean visitor arrivals were a mere 2.6 percent in the first half of the year, compared to the 16-percent increase recorded in January to June 2017.
The sluggishness of the South Korean market, though, was overcome by the arrivals from China, which recorded a 42-percent jump to 645,089 tourists in the first six months of the year. The market accounted for a 17.4-percent share in total arrivals, and was ranked second among the top source markets for tourist for the Philippines. Chinese tourists ate up one percentage point in South Korean tourists’ market share this year, as they beat their 33.4-percent jump in arrivals in the same period in 2017.
Beijing had lifted a travel ban to the Philippines after President Duterte’s visit in 2016. It also promised to send 1 million tourists to the Philippines every year.
In third spot was the United States, with arrivals growing by 8.65 percent to 557,833; followed by Japan at 316,060 (up 7.47 percent); and Australia at 140,260 (up 7.07 percent). In the same period in 2017, however, the US and Japan markets grew by 13 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively, an indication of some weakness this year. Only Australia exceeded its 3.8-percent growth in arrivals in the first half of 2017.
In her first overseas trip as DOT Secretary, Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat last month made a pitch to the Japanese travel agencies and tour operators to visit the Philippines. She also introduced new tourism ambassadors, among them a Japanese singer and a former Miss Japan-Universe, as the DOT sharpens its marketing efforts toward the joshi tabi or female travelers. Local travel agencies had already been reporting some weakness in their inbound Japanese customer base. (See, “PHL seeks to attract more Japan women travelers, in the BusinessMirror, July 1, 2018.)
Meanwhile, Romulo Puyat, in a news statement, said her agency’s partnership with the private sector, as well as the intensified convergence with relevant government agencies served as impetus in sustaining the upward trajectory of foreign arrivals.
“The DOT’s continuous marketing promotions, aggressive actions to create new air routes and develop new tourism products, travel facilitation, and confidence in tourism investments boosted the industry and resulted in this stellar performance,” she said. “But I would like to emphasize, this would not be possible without the consolidated efforts of our stakeholders,” she added.
Romulo Puyat expressed optimism that the first-half performance in arrivals this year, is a clear manifestation that the DOT would meet its target of 7.4 million foreign tourists by year-end. “We are actually on track. We are halfway the year and we are exactly halfway in our National Tourism Development Plan [NTDP] target arrivals.”
Tourism arrivals data are gathered from the arrivals and departure cards of the Bureau of Immigration, as well as shipping manifests.
For June 2018 alone, visitor arrivals were tallied at 528,747, posting an 11.35-percent increase from the June 2017 arrivals of 474,854 arrivals.
Rounding up the first-half performance, Canada was among the top market sources with 121,098, which grew by 11.88 percent; the United Kingdom at 102,443 arrivals (up 9.4 percent); Singapore at 91,736 (up 7.66 percent); and Malaysia at 73,663 (up 2.01 percent).
Sizeable arrival growths were tallied from Hong Kong and India, with tourists from Hong Kong rising by some 26 percent to 69,955 and tourists from India up 15.41 percent to 63,089.
The only market which posted a decrease in arrivals was Taiwan. Tourists from Taiwan dipped 5.09 percent to 120,540.
A poll by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation of some 1,000 Taiwanese published in June indicated that the Philippines was their second most hated country, after North Korea. This is the second year in a row that the Philippines received the same designation from the same group. (See, “DOT pushes marketing amid decline in Taiwanese arrivals,” in the BusinessMirror, June 28, 2018.)