By Agence France-Presse
The Philippines welcomed a record 7.1 million tourists to its beaches and dive spots in 2018, despite the shutdown of famous resort Boracay for half of the year to recover, officials said Thursday.
The number of visitors jumped by nearly eight percent over the previous year, with South Koreans leading the way as its top tourists.
This growth came without much help from Boracay, which was closed for clean up from April to October after President Duterte branded it a “cesspool” fouled by reckless development.
Before the closure, the tiny island’s white sand beaches and turquoise waters were seeing some two million sun worshippers a year.
“The challenging act of closing down Boracay… the country’s top sun-and-beach destination has evidently become a blessing in disguise,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.
Other spots like natural paradise Palawan and beach destination Siargao island saw a jump in foreign tourists during the closure.
While South Korean led the pack with 1.6 million tourists, Chinese arrivals jumped by nearly 30 percent over 2017 to hit 1.3 million, the Department of Tourism said.
Americans visitors were at one million.