Foreign tourists visiting the Philippines, at 8.26 million in 2019, slightly exceeded the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) target of 8.2 million for the year. The year-end figure was also 15.36 percent higher than the 7.16 million arrivals in 2018.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said: “This heralds a new milestone in the country’s tourism history, breaching the eight-millionth mark. Without doubt, our convergence programs with other government agencies, particularly in improving access to destinations, as well as product development and marketing initiatives with local governments and the private sector, have greatly paid off. We hope to sustain these gains even as we face global challenges.”
The DOT has targeted visitor arrivals to hit 9.2 million for 2020.
Data from the DOT showed that South Korea continued to dominate the top source market for tourists, with 1.98 million arrivals, up some 22.5 percent from 2018.
In second place was mainland China, which grew some 38.6 percent—the largest increase recorded among markets—to 1.74 million arrivals. The United States continued to remain in third place, with arrivals up a mere 2.9 percent to 1.06 million. Following in a far fourth spot was Japan, with arrivals at 682,788—an increase of 8.07 percent.
In fifth spot was Taiwan, which rose a substantial 35.01 percent to 327,273 arrivals. It was only in 2019 that the market recovered after previous years of sluggishness owing to the negative perception of the Philippines by Taiwanese travelers.
In several public opinion surveys in 2018, the Taiwanese branded the Philippines as the second “most hated country” in the world.
The strong growth of the Taiwan market is expected to continue this year after the DOT and stakeholders groups led by the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, successfully appealed to have the travel ban on Taiwan lifted.
The DOT estimates losses from the greater China market would reach P38.2 billion from February to April 2020.
Meanwhile, arrivals from Singapore and Malaysia continued to slump, even as the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing arm of the DOT, was supposed to have increased its promotions of the Philippines in those markets.
Arrivals from Singapore fell some 7.7 percent to 158,595, while those from Malaysia slipped by 3.7 percent to 139,882 last year. TPB Chief Operating Officer Venus Marie Tan explained tourists from these markets were always on the lookout for new things to do in a destination. As such, she said the TPB was ramping up its product offerings to these markets with the help of the private sector.
The DOT said almost all months in 2019, except January, registered double-digit increases in arrivals, the largest of which was in August at 27.54 percent, while December recorded the highest volume of tourists at 776,798.
The Christmas holidays are usually an incentive for Filipinos residing abroad to come to the Philippines in December to spend time with their families. Philippine passport holders residing abroad, but not overseas workers, were recorded at 13,741 in December 2019 alone, up 12.07 percent from December 2018.
Arrivals from the US, where most balikbayan (homecoming Filipinos) come from, was recorded at 109,488 last December. The market accounted for a 14-percent share of total arrivals in December 2019.