DOT sets ‘conservative’ target of 4.8 million international arrivals in 2023

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
DOT sets �conservative� target of 4.8 million international arrivals in 2023
This file photo shows a boarding gate at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Philstar.com / Kristine Joy Patag

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism last Monday bared its “conservative” targets for the tourism industry for 2023.

On the same day, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco happily reported that as of December 19, the number of visitor arrivals to the Philippines has reached 2.464 million since the country relaxed border restrictions to foreign tourists last Feb. 10, 2022. 

Frasco said the initial target was pegged at only 1.7 million international visitors while the high-scenario was set at 1.4 million.

The United States remains the top tourist market.

The following are the country’s top ten tourist markets as of December 19:

  • United States – 461,967 visitors
  • South Korea – 387,780
  • Australia – 122, 971
  • Canada – 112,015
  • United Kingdom – 93,440
  • Japan – 91,557
  • Singapore – 50,964
  • India – 49,330
  • Malaysia – 44,357
  • Vietnam – 37,028 

It should be noted that the People’s Republic of China, a major tourism source market of the Philippines, was knocked off the list after the country implemented restrictions on leisure travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuous presence of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators.

As of October, China only registered 23,482 visitors to the country.

Meanwhile, as of Nov. 20, 2022, the country’s estimated tourism revenue (tourism receipts) is at P149 billion or $139.3 million US dollars.

In view of these developments, the DOT exceeded its targets this year.

Frasco is optimistic that the country will further surpass its expanded target of 2.4 million international visitors and reach 2.5 million guests by the end of the year.

“If this happens, then we would have about 30% of our pre-pandemic arrivals. A far cry from the 164,000 international visitors that we received in 2021,” she said during the year-end media briefing.

'Optimistic but cautious'

For 2023, the DOT chief disclosed that the agency is targeting 4.8 million international visitors as its baseline.

Before assuming office, Frasco said she saw an alarming projection that the country would only reach its pre-pandemic tourism numbers by 2025.

The country recorded 8.26 million visitors in 2019.

In view of this, she took an inward look at what the DOT can do to strengthen the tourism industry and set in goals with conservative numbers.

“We look at it with optimism in a sense that our goal is to exceed our conservative projections in the same way that we have been able to exceed it this year,” Frasco said.

Director Warner Andrada of DOT-Tourism Development Planning likewise said the tourism department is “optimistic but cautious” given the various factors that are beyond the control of the DOT including the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and volatile fuel prices as well as the continued lockdowns in China.

“We’re optimistic but cautious, that’s the word, because of the Ukraine-Russia war which the economic fundamentals may affect travel, especially on the oil or gasoline fuel prices,” Andrada said, saying this changing fuel price affects the movement in the country.

Despite these unpredictable events, Frasco is bullish that the Philippines will reach the pre-pandemic numbers way earlier than the past projection.
“And we feel that we would be able to exceed our pre-pandemic numbers way earlier than the 2025 year that was told to us when we assumed office with the improved policies under the Marcos administration,” she added. 

To achieve this, Frasco is looking into tapping Southeast Asian neighbors in promoting Philippine tourism. She said that the visitors from SEA countries "are not that high as how we want it to be" citing that the countries are being visited more due to their landlock advantage.

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