MANILA, Philippines – For a Philippine tourism official, it is “unfortunate” that Chinese travel agencies have suspended tours to the Philippines due to rising tension over the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
“We cannot force them to come to the Philippines for after all, the choice will have to be made by them. This obstacle is temporary, and we can and must overcome this,” said Tourism Undersecretary Ma Victoria Jasmin in an e-mail to Rappler.
The agencies suspended Philippine tours amid the Scarborough Shoal standoff, Chinese state media reported Thursday, May 10.
'Immediate but temporary'
China is a big tourism market, Jasmin noted. “Therefore the impact is immediate but as I said, temporary,” she explained.
Based on tourism department statistics, China is the 4th largest market for tourists in the Philippines behind Korea, the United States, and Japan. Statistics show 243,137 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines in 2011, accounting for 6.21% of the Philippines' 3.9 million tourists last year.
Jasmin added that the Department of Tourism (DOT) would then have to shift its focus to individual travelers from China and other key markets, emphasizing China is only one of the Philippines’ 10 key markets.
PH agencies weigh in
The president of the Philippines' main travel association, Aileen Clemente, also said she regrets the travel suspension.
"While the Philippine Travel Agencies Association wishes that circumstances are different right now, we are still very hopeful the prevailing tension at the Scarborough Shoal will be resolved at the soonest possible time by our respective governments," Clemente said.
Like DOT, Clemente noted that China is one of their target markets that include Australia, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. “We believe they can augment whatever it is the Philippines will loose from Chinese tourists arrivals,” Clemente said.
On Friday, May 11, Filipino protesters plan to storm Chinese embassies worldwide to oppose China’s claim over Scarborough Shoal. – Rappler.com