Philippine Department of Tourism (PDOT) achieved a “milestone” after reaching an all-time high of international tourist arrivals in 2017 at 6,620,908. This marks the unprecedented growth of the country’s tourism industry, the DOT said.

Latest data released by the DOT showed tourist arrivals grew 10.96 percent from the 2016 arrivals of 5,967,005.Philippine tourism even 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) World Tourism Barometer.

“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 Teo said in a statement.

The tourism milestone came after a series of political noise, security concerns, and travel advisories against the country in 2017.She also thanked all stakeholders who made country’s hosting of the Miss Universe and the ASEAN Summit, Madrid Fusión Manila 2017, World Street Food Congress, and the UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics a huge success.

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. South Korea remained the country’s top source market with the lion’s share of 1,607,821, attributing for almost a quarter of the total tourist arrival.

Boracay and Cebu remain the top destinations for Koreans last year. China followed suit with 968,447 arrivals due to the improved ties between the two states, added air routes, and the Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) option for Chinese nationals.

It is the most improved market with 43.33 percent growth rate overtaking United States with 957,813 arrivals. Japan and Australia wound up the top five markets with 584,180 and 259,433 arrivals respectively.

Also good to note is Russia’s growing number of tourists in the country with a 14.36 percent growth of 44,087 visitors compared to 38,552 in 2016.To recall, 2017 had been a significant period for the two countries as it committed to further bolster cooperation and bilateral relations.

Per continent, data obtained by the Philippine News Agency showed Asia had a 63.83 percent share on the total 2017 figures with 4,225,256 visitors, North and South America a 17.77 percent share with 1,176,480, and Africa with 0.12 percent at 8,029 visitors. On the other hand, Australia and the Pacific had 5.03 percent total share with 333,179 visitors while Europe had 10.2 percent share in the number with 675,399 tourists.

Target reached

December registered 603,062 foreign tourist arrivals second best to the month of January 2017 at 620,121. “The seven million that some people refer to was a fighting target that we have set for ourselves,” said Benito Bengzon, Jr., DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Development.

“Officially the target is at 6.5 million which is embodied in the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) and we have achieved it,” he explained. For 2018, the NTDP projected 7.4 million international tourist arrivals.

Teo said the department would continue pushing for new and underrated destinations with the help of an expanded marketing plan, improved human resource capacity and service standards. She added plans to highlight tourism thematic products such as the farm and faith tourism sectors. Meanwhile, another centerpiece of 2018 would be sports and adventure tourism with the hosting of Strongest Man, the Iron Man, and other sports-related events.

The Philippines has seen the consistent growth in tourist arrivals from the Middle East. In 2016, the Philippines received a total of 83,546 tourists from the region, growing by 9.69% over 2015. Tourist arrivals from Saudi Arabia and UAE, the two largest markets out of the region for the Philippines, reached 50,884 and 16,881 respectively.

The PDOT aims to achieve 100,000 tourists from the Middle East by the end of 2018 and proactively developing strategic partnerships with key stakeholders in the Middle East to capture a sizeable percentage of its high-yield tourist market.

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