Philippines breaks tourism record in 2018 despite Boracay closure

Aika Rey
Philippines breaks tourism record in 2018 despite Boracay closure
South Korea remains the top source market, while China is the 'most improved' as it overtakes the United States for the second spot

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government broke its tourism record once again, with more than 7.1 million foreign visitors arriving in the country in 2018.

According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), the figure is 7.65% more than the 2017 figure of 6.6 million foreign visitors, despite the 6-month closure of top tourist destination Boracay. (INSIDE STORY: How Duterte decided on Boracay closure)

But the 2018 record still fell short of the DOT’s target of 7.4 million tourist arrivals.

“The challenging act of closing down Boracay – a flagship destination, the country’s top sun-and-beach destination – has evidently become a blessing in disguise for secondary tourism spots to have a share of the limelight and attention they truly deserve,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said.

The DOT said the island’s rehabilitation “opened opportunities” for other destinations such as Siargao, Iloilo, Palawan, La Union, Romblon, and Siquijor. (READ: Which tourist spots will be rehabilitated after Boracay?)

“With this, we have also seen the transition from a mass tourism perspective shifting into a high-value tourism direction that prioritizes quality over mere quantity,” Puyat said.

DOT data showed that South Korea remained to be the country’s top source market with 1.59 million of its citizens visiting the Philippines in 2018.

China came in second with a record high of 1.26 million arrivals. The influx of Chinese tourists in the country made China the “most improved market” according to the DOT, with a 29.62% growth rate.

China overtook the United States as the second top source market. The US is third, with 1.03 million tourist arrivals.

January had the most number of tourist arrivals in 2018 at 732,506 visitors. December recorded 687,726 foreign visitors, the second highest month.

The government is eyeing 8.2 million tourists in 2019, as stated in the National Tourism Development Plan 2016-2022.

The Philippines’ friendlier ties with China under the Duterte administration has drawn more Chinese tourists to the Philippines. The government is thinking of shortening the visa on arrival process for Chinese travelers. –

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at