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MANILA - Despite a travel ban by China-based tour operators, Chinese visitors to the Philippines jumped 43 percent in the first six months of the year.
Data from the Department of Tourism showed that close to 151,000 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines in the first half of 2012 in spite of a campaign among China-based tour operators to discourage travel to the Philippines through January 2013 because of the tensions between the two countries over the West Philippine Sea.
In a text message, DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez told InterAksyon.com that “individual Chinese tourists do not go through travel agencies/operators anymore,” and most likely use the Internet and online travel web sites to book their vacations.
According to MasterCard Worldwide in Asia Pacific economic adviser Yuwa Hendrick-Ong, most Chinese travelers today are young, well educated, and affluent – indicating their increased access to the Internet.
In his book, “The Future and Me: Power of the Youth Market in Asia,” Yuwa said: “It is not surprising that personal travel is the largest item on their discretionary spending list. This new generation aspires to expand their horizons and gain first-hand experiences of foreign cultures.”
Citing a MasterCard Asia-Pacific survey in 2006, Yuwa estimates that discretionary spending on travel and leisure of young singles and married couples with no kids in China will rise to $87.1 billion by 2016 from $69 billion in 2006, outpacing the projected growth of their discretionary spending on auto and consumer electronics ($85 billion), drinking and entertainment ($47.3 billion), and shopping ($24.3 billion).
Despite the year-on-year increase in Chinese arrivals, DOT data also showed that the growth in the first six months was slower than the 59 percent increase in the first five months.
Also, the Chinese accounted for only 7 percent of the total tourist arrivals of 2.14 million in the first half of the year, down from 7.61 percent of the 1.82 million total arrivals in the first five months.
Jimenez said the effect of the Chinese tourist “ban” on the Philippines is not “negligible, because we were hoping for more China arrivals this year.”
But the impact on total arrivals “is not so great that we cannot make up for it by pushing harder in other markets for a balanced year," he said.
Key markets registered increases
Jimenez is optimistic that government will achieve its 4.6 million total arrivals target for 2012, as visitors were up 11.7 percent in the first half of the year, from the 1.92 million recorded in the same period in 2011.
In a separate text message, DOT spokesman and assistant secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said, “We continue to step up our marketing and promotions activities in the key markets of Korea, US, and Japan. At the same time, we are developing new markets such as India, the Middle East, and Russia.”
The DOT noted that all key markets registered increases in the first half of the year, with South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, and Taiwan still the Philippines' top tourist markets.
Arrivals from South Korea grew by 10.5 percent to 474,685 visitors, accounting for a 22.15 percent share of total arrivals.
Visitors from the US were up 4.8 percent to 354,259, representing a 16.53-percent market share.
Japanese tourists were up 7.8 percent to 195,504 or 9.12 percent of total visitors. After China, Taiwan exhibited the highest growth of 34.5 percent, contributing 114,269 tourists in the first half of the year, and accounting for 5.33 percent of total arrivals.
Other markets posted significant increments in arrivals: Australia up 11.95 percent to 92,648; Singapore up 10.36 percent to 73,015; Canada up 7.12 percent to 65,503; Hong Kong up 2.36 percent to 57,790; United Kingdom up 11.3 percent to 57,181; Malaysia up 11.96 percent to 49,788; and Germany up 12.61 percent to 34,189.
Returning or visiting overseas Filipinos accounted for 5.16 percent of total tourist traffic at 110,703, and were up 4.46 percent.
Spreading the FUN
“Since the campaign launch in January, we have been actively spreading the FUN to all corners of the globe, notably in Germany during the world’s largest travel fair, International Tourismus Borse; in Japan during the 6th Philippine Business Mission; in the US for the Memphis in May International Festival; in the Middle East during the Arabian Travel Mart; and currently in Korea with our participation at the Yeosu Expo 2012," Jimenez said.
"Our presence in UK is intensified through our mobile ads on the double-decker buses, taxicabs, and the underground rail stations, with the perfect opportunity to capture millions of viewers of the ongoing London 2012 Olympics. We expect to see more tourists during the peak season before the year ends,” he said.
Jimenez said easing visa requirements for foreign travelers to the country, building more infrastructure to improve domestic travel, as well as “fresh investments to expand transportation, accommodation, and recreation facilities, and product enhancement – all these will help realize our year-end target of 4.6 million visitors.”
The Philippines recently gained worldwide exposure with the recognition of Boracay as “2012 World’s Best Island” by the Travel + Leisure magazine, affirming the resort-island's status as a must-see destination. Boracay jumped from 4th place in 2011 to 1st in 2012, and bested last year’s top destination, Santorini, Greece, which fell to 6th, and Bali, Indonesia, which stayed at 2nd.
Ariara Island, a luxurious private island resort in Calamian, Palawan, also ranked first in the Top 100 holiday destinations of Vogue-UK’s August 2012 issue.
“The Philippine tourism industry is beginning to enjoy an international renaissance, which has the capacity to propel the country into one of the region’s best performers over the next decade. With P1.99 trillion projected receipts by 2016, we can look forward to seeing tourism become not just an economic activity, but an entire industry driving inclusive and sustained growth in the country,” Jimenez said.
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