By Charina Clarisse Echaluce
Foreign visitors to the Philippines last year reached an “all-time high” record of more than 6.6 million, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported Wednesday night.
According to the DOT, 6,620,908 foreign tourists visited the Philippines last year, marking an “unprecedented growth” in the country’s tourism industry. At least an 11 percent increase was seen, compared with the 2016 figure of 5,967,005.
“We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to all the tourism stakeholders who worked hand in hand with the Department of Tourism in achieving another milestone for the country,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo said.
Philippine tourism bested the average tourism growth of Asia and the Pacific which is at six percent; and Southeast Asia at eight percent, according to the latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Tourism Barometer.
The tourism milestone came even after a series of political noise, security concerns, and travel advisories against the country last year.
“We overcame these challenges with the innate resiliency of the Filipinos and the cooperation of everybody. And for that, we are very thankful,” Teo said.
Improved air routes and more cruise calls together with travel infrastructure development, travel facilitation, product development and tourism investments drummed up the tourism industry last year, it was disclosed.
Teo also thanked all stakeholders who helped the Philippines in hosting the Miss Universe and the ASEAN Summit, Madrid Fusión Manila 2017, World Street Food Congress, and the UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics.
In December 2017 alone, 603,062 foreign tourist arrivals were recorded–coming in at a close second after January 2017 figure of 620,121.
“The seven million that some people refer to was a fighting target that we set for ourselves. Officially, the target was at 6.5 million which is embodied in the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) and we have achieved it,” explained Benito Bengzon, Jr., DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Development.
S. Korea as top market
South Korea remained the country’s top source market with a share of 1,607,821, attributing for almost a quarter of the total tourist arrival, the DOT disclosed.
Boracay and Cebu remain the top destinations for Koreans last year.
China followed with 968,447 arrivals due to the improved ties between the Philippines and China, added air routes, and the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) option for Chinese nationals, the tourism department revealed. It is the most improved market with 43.33 percent growth rate, overtaking USA with 957,813 arrivals.
Japan and Australia wound up in the top five markets with 584,180 and 259,433 arrivals respectively.
For 2018, the NTDP projected 7.4 million international tourist arrivals.
“For this year, with an expanded marketing plan, improved quality, human resource capacity, and service standards, we will continue to push for new and underrated destinations. We are also looking at the farm and faith tourism sectors,” Teo stated.
Another highlight of 2018 would be sports and adventure tourism with the hosting of Strongest Man, the Iron Man, and other sports-related events.