MANILA, Philippines – Has the Philippines-China dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) adversely affected tourism in the country?
According to Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez, numbers show “quite the opposite.”
The tourism chief told Rappler on Tuesday, December 17, via a text message that tourist arrivals from China are up by 69.55% based on January-October 2013 data and compared to the same period in 2012.
The territorial clash has been a source of tension for both countries. The April 2012 naval standoff at Scarborough Shoal – which saw the apprehension of Chinese fishing vessels by the Philippine Navy – brought the two countries to a point of mutual animosity.
The uptick of Chinese tourists in the Philippines is even more notable, as 6.21% of the Philippines' 3.9 million tourists in 2012 also came from China.
More tourist arrivals from different countries are expected this Christmas.
70% decline since 2010?
Despite the increase in tourist arrivals from China this year, however, Korean tourists have taken over the Chinese in the top spot of Philippine tourist arrivals.
In fact, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported on Tuesday a 70-percent decrease in the influx of Chinese tourists to the country from 2010.
Citing no specific reason behind the decline, the BI chief said the People’s Republic of China used to be the largest tourism market of the Philippines – a spot that Korea now holds for two years in a row.
"From number one, they went down to number 4… Close to one million before. They are now 200,000 to 300,000. Malaki ang binaba. Baka yung incident sa Hong Kong, nakaapekto. Marami, hindi natin alam,” he explained.
(From number one, they went to number 4... [Chinese tourists were] close to one million before. They are now 200,000 to 300,000. The decline is huge. It might be the hostage incident of Hong Kong tourists that affected it. There's a lot. We don't know.)
Mison was referring to the hostage-taking of Hong Kong nationals aboard a tour bus in Manila in August 2010.
Overall tourist arrivals
Over 3 million tourists have entered the country in 2013 as of December 5, more than one million of whom came from South Korea.
Below is the breakdown as of December 5 of the number of tourists for 2013 from 10 countries that comprise the Philippines' largest tourism market:
TOTAL as of December 5 - 3,041,820 visitors
The immigration bureau chief said the 2013 tourist arrivals are expected to be almost the same as last year, with 4.27 million visiting the country.
"Marami pang papasok. We are looking at additional 400,000 to 500,000 tourists pa this year (There are still a lot who will visit. We are looking at additional 400,000 to 500,000 tourists this year)," he said of the remainder of the year. – Rappler.com