Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) show that foreign arrivals hit 4.1 million from January to June, an 11.43 percent gain from a year ago.
Walter Bollozos/File
Foreign arrivals breach 4 million mark
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - August 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign arrivals have breached the four million mark in the first half of the year, driven by the country’s improving connectivity and expansion of tourism offerings.

Data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) show that foreign arrivals hit 4.1 million from January to June, an 11.43 percent gain from a year ago.

“The Philippine tourism industry has indeed come a long way with better and increased connectivity. New, rehabilitated and expanded airports have contributed much to this growth,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

Puyat emphasized that seven years ago, it took the entire year to reach four million arrivals.

“By expanding our portfolio of tourism products and by developing and promoting our lesser-known but emerging destinations, we have attracted a large yet diverse set of foreign travelers and have sustained our growth in the highly competitive Southeast Asian region,” she added.

In June alone, foreign arrivals jumped 21.41 percent to 643,780 arrivals versus 530,267 in June 2018.

South Korea remained the top source market, with China coming in second. It was not clear, however, how many of the travelers from China obtained tourist visas on arrival but stayed on to work in Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs. The United States, Japan and Taiwan took the remaining top five spots.

Under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), the Philippines is targeting to hit 8.2 million foreign arrivals this year, a 15 percent increase from the 7.1 million foreign arrivals in 2018.

The DOT welcomed the US Homeland Security’s decision to lift its public notice on travel to NAIA following the “significant improvements” in the airports security operations, as this may be one of the drivers of foreign arrivals growth moving forward.

“With the recent development of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to rescind its public advisory on security issues at NAIA, we can expect more travelers from the US to visit the Philippines in the coming months,” Puyat said.

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. earlier emphasized the importance of route development and aviation in tourism promotions.

“When you talk about connectivity, you have to look at two things. One is the flights that will be launched or mounted by the carriers themselves, foreign or local, and the second is the level of preparedness on the supply side,” Bengzon said.

Bengzon said for the first three months of 2019, the DOT’s route development team has bagged an additional 1.4 million new seats.

In 2018, the DOT’s Route Development Team under the tourism development sector facilitated the opening of 40 new international air routes that provided a total of 1,595,568 air seats this year. Of this number, 23 are from local airlines while the remaining 17 are facilitated by international carriers.

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