By Charina Clarisse Echaluce
At least 1.5-million Chinese tourists are being targeted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) this year, after coming close to the one-million mark for arrivals from China last year.
“This year, we are aiming higher and we are targeting 1.5 million,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo disclosed Friday.
In 2017, a total of 968,447 Chinese nationals visited the country overtaking the Americans at the second spot of the top tourism markets. The arrivals almost doubled with 43.33-percent growth compared with the 2016 total of 675,663.
Teo said the “warming relations” between the Duterte administration and the Chinese government, despite the Scarborough territorial dispute, brings much more advantage to the country in terms of the increased arrivals of Chinese tourists, as well as investments from mainland China.
In the first month of 2018 alone, 111,344 Chinese arrivals were recorded, noting a 29.55-percent increase compared with what was recorded in the same period in 2017.
In 2017, China became the world’s largest tourism source market with 129-million outbound trips according to Ctrip, China’s largest online travel provider.
DOT-Shanghai Tourism attaché Ireneo Reyes shared, “As for the main thrust to get more Chinese tourists, our priority will be the accessibility. Starting this year, a total of 5,180 seats per month will be added with special charter flights for the Chinese New Year celebration.”
In addition, 1,800 seats from the direct flights to Cebu, 3,183 to Kalibo, and 197 to Puerto Princesa are expected to attract more Chinese tourists this year.
For the Chinese New Year period, a total of 2,937 seats are opened for the month of February from different Chinese cities including Guangzhou, Xiamen, Ningbo, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, and Tianjin.
“These direct and charter flights provide convenience that greatly affects tourist experience and influences potential tourist’s decision in choosing a destination. At the moment there are 11 airlines servicing direct, regular and charter routes for 17 Chinese cities,” DOT-Beijing Tourism attaché Tomasito Umali noted.
Aside from better air connectivity, the DOT also focuses on cruise tourism with more Chinese cruise companies and charterers including one or two of the country’s 7,641 islands in the cruise line itineraries.
Cruise ships SuperStar Virgo and Genting World Dream paved the way last year while Costa Cruise Atlantis will start this month for a year-round deployment with an estimated 48,420 guest capacity. Royal Caribbean Voyager and Ovation, with 3,500- passenger capacity each, will be visiting the Philippines shores in June and July.
Local Chinese cruise lines including Diamond Exquisites and Taishan Cruise are expected, as well to visit the country this year.
Boracay, Cebu and Bohol were the favorite destinations of the Chinese travelers last year, according to the DOT Annual Visitor Sample Survey 2017.
“We are also preparing more choices for the Chinese market. We are now pushing Puerto Princesa, Davao and other destinations,” Teo said.