MANILA, Philippines—There is no stopping Chinese citizens from coming to the Philippines despite the latter’s maritime row with China.
Tourists from China posted the strongest growth among the top markets in terms of visitor arrivals since January, Malacañang announced on Thursday.
Foreign visitor arrivals for the first seven months of the year reached 2,798,881, or an increase of 11.05 percent from the same period in 2012, maintaining the growth momentum recorded in the first half of the year.
Quoting a report by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the first seven months corresponded to 50.9 percent of the 5.5 million target arrivals for 2013.
Arrivals in July alone reached 418,288, the second highest record during the year and the first for the month over the past years, Lacierda said.
Koreans are No. 1
South Korea remains the largest source market with 706,998 visitors, or a total of 25.26 percent of the total inbound traffic, recording a double-digit growth rate of 22.30 percent.
At second place is the United States with 417,904 American visitors while China rose to third place, overtaking Japan, and had the “strongest growth” among the top markets with 48.58 percent.
Lacierda said that other important source markets with double-digit gains include the Russian Federation (34.36 percent), Indonesia (26.70 percent), Saudi Arabia (23.24 percent), France (19.95 percent), Thailand (18.07 percent) and India (17.07 percent).
In February, President Aquino conceded that the Department of Tourism (DOT) had failed to meet its target of 4.6 million tourist arrivals last year because of tensions over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The President did not specifically name China but alluded to a “big nation” that jeopardized the DOT’s target in 2012.
“It’s because we have a neighbor, which is a big country, that is somewhat harsh at us once in a while. It’s barring its citizens from visiting us. This caused us to miss [the DOT target] but that’s all right,” he said.
But the President was still upbeat about the sudden influx of tourists in the country, considering the measly tourist arrivals in the last nine and a half years under his predecessor.
“The tourist arrivals for the entire nine and a half years were perhaps 1.6 or 1.9 million. But it eventually reached 3 million. In the two years we’ve been in charge, the 3 million almost became 4.6 [million] last year. But our target [for 2016 is] 10 million. So why did we fail to hit 4.6 million?” he asked.
He said the DOT recorded only 4.3 million.
The DOT has launched an aggressive campaign to direct tourist traffic to the many islands of the country under the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan.
Specifically, a grand total of 4,272,811 tourists visited the country last year, the first time the country breached the 4 million mark.
In June, the DOT was more upbeat, expecting the Philippines to exceed its inbound tourism target of 5 million this year, as campaigns to expand foreign and domestic tourism gain momentum.
Updating its estimates, the DOT sees 5.5 million foreign tourists visiting the country this year and 35 million residents going on domestic tours.
South Korea remains the largest tourism source for the Philippines, followed by Japan and China. The three are expected to account for at least a third of inbound tourists this year, Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said. With a report from Riza Olchondra