MANILA, Philippines – Tourist arrivals in the first 7 months of 2013 hit 2.8 million, about 51% of the 5.5 million target for the year.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said he is confident the 5-million mark will be hit this 2013.
“It will be the fist time in our history that the Philippine tourist arrivals would cross 5 million,” Jimenez told reporters on the sidelines of the 1st Philippine Tourism Forum at the SMX Convention Center.
About 418,000 tourists visited in July, an all-time high for the month and 11% higher than a year ago, he shared. “The intention is to sustain, or even growth better than, the 11% growth.”
Tourism receipts by the end of 2013 is estimated to reach P1.5 trillion with gross value added of about P748 billion.
During a press briefing in Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the following were the largest and fast-growing source markets for tourists:
- South Korea, 706,998 visitors, 25.26 % of total
- USA, 417,904 visitors
- China, up 48.58% (overtaking Japan as 3rd top market)
- Russia, up 34.36%
- Indonesia, up 26.7%
- Saudi Arabia, up 23.24%
- France, up 19.95%
- Thailand, up 18.07%
- India, up 17.07%
The tourism chief is banking on the upcoming integration of the Asean economies by 2015 to sustain tourism arrivals growth in the country.
Officials are targeting to hit 8 million arrivals by 2015 and 10 million by 2016.
Jimenez said he expects the share of tourism to Philippine GDP to increase to 7.8% by 2015 from the current 6.7% as the Asean integration addresses the gaps of each country such as service capacity, air agreements and visa protocols.
“As improvements in our systems, visa facilitation come on stream, the growth of tourism also accelerates. Right now, the improvements are coming in gradually. So we are seeing a gradual, steady growth.
The moment we have a dramatic change in our capacity, you will see a dramatic change again (in tourist arrivals),” Jimenez said.
He cited the increasing number of flights between the Philippines and Southeast Asian neighbors as one of the factors boosting the tourism industry’s performance.
Jimenez said the Asean economic community will enable all 10 members of Asean economic community to get a bigger pie of the travel market around both individually and collectively.
“If we are talking of market share as a single unit or as Asean, if we are ready, we will get our fair share. Everybody will grow,” he added.
Jimenez stressed that the Philippines is one of the countries pushing for greater openness in terms of visa regulation.
“The Philippines is one of the countries which is open to 155 countries. Not all countries in Asean are as open,” Jimenez said.
The Philippines has so far relaxed visa protocols for other countries, such as India, whose citizens can get visa upon arrival good for 14 days as long as they have visas from countries like the US, Canada,
Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom and Singapore.
“This was not possible before until we attended to it,” Jimenez said. He said some visa protocols for some countries in Africa should also be eased.
Jimenez added that government is also looking at relaxing visa requirements for visitors from China. Currently, Chinese tourists are visa-free only if they arrive as a group.
National Statistical Coordination Board data showed that a tourist spends around $84 a day based on 2010 arrivals. – Rappler.com