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Tourist receipts peak in 2019 as COVID-19 dims outlook

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Tourist receipts peak in 2019 as COVID-19 dims outlook
Arriving passengers wearing protective masks wait for their luggage at the international airport in Manila on February 3, 2020.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines— Tourism revenues peaked to a new “all-time high” last year, but the prospects of topping the record anew this year appears to be bleak as travel barriers put up to prevent the spread of coronavirus discourage holidays.

Visitor receipts totaled P482.15 billion in peso terms last year, up 18.8% from 2018, the Tourism department reported on Monday. The amount was equivalent to $9.3 billion, which was up by a faster 20.8% year-on-year in dollar terms.

The total amount, however, fell below the government target of P564 billion.

“The Philippine tourism industry’s continued impressive performance dramatizes the dedication, hard work and resilience of its stakeholders through a most challenging year,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in the statement.

Tourist receipts estimate the revenues accumulated through various tourism services like accommodations as well as leisure activities, food, and other spending by tourists when they visit the country.

On average, tourism data show that a foreign guest spent $128.35 a day in the Philippines last year, which translated to $1,218.04 for the entire trip.

Under the Duterte administration, tourism has started becoming a vital of source of dollars for the Philippines. Long tagged as a potential dollar engine, tourism revenues surged since 2017 aided by a massive increase in the number of visitors, particularly Chinese, whose number have grown nearly three times since 2016.

The increase in Chinese tourists is not coincidental. President Duterte’s warmer ties with Beijing was targeted at securing economic benefits, including tourism revenues from a legion of Chinese tourists travelling yearly.

But this year can be a break from the rising trend. A still-uncontained spread of coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China last month has triggered global travel restrictions, including that imposed by the Philippines over China.

Apart from China, travel to the Philippines was also suspended starting last Friday for tourists coming from North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea due to the spread of Coronavirus Disease-19.

Apart from being the top sources of foreign tourists for the Philippines, accounting for more than 45% of total visitors, Koreans and Chinese are also the country’s top spenders when visiting. In total, Koreans spent a combined $2.6 billion here last year, while Chinese shelled out $2.33 billion, which indicates prohibitions to their entry here can have a devastating impact. 

“We count on the same enduring qualities to get us through the challenges this year,” Puyat said, stopping short of saying whether tourist arrival and receipt targets will be revisited.

Following South Koreans and Chinese on the biggest spender list were Americans who spent around $1.21 billion last year, data showed. Americans were followed by visitors from Japan, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Germany and Malaysia.

BERNADETTE ROMULO-PUYAT CORONAVIRUS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM NOVEL CORONAVIRUS TOURISM TOURISM RECEIPTS TRAVEL BAN
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