Philippines eyes three million foreign tourists

The Philippines is on target of drawing three million foreign tourists in 2006, as international arrivals posted double-digit growth in the first quarter of the year.

Citing preliminary data, Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said that foreign visitor arrivals grew by 13 percent year-on-year to 762,912 in the first quarter of 2006 from 643,202 arrivals a year earlier.

Largest sources of foreign tourists in the first quarter of the year were the United States, with 149,511 arrivals; South Korea, 144,768; Japan, 114,133; china, 32,204; and Taiwan, 30, 939.

"This momentum continued during the second quarter, as the growth rate in arrivals reached 14 percent in the latest monitored period of April 1 to 23," he said.

Such growth figure in the January-to-April period is in line with the tourism department's growth target of 14 percent this year.

Durano is optimistic that total visitor arrivals would top three million in 2006, up by 400,000 from 2.6 million in 2005.

Last year, arrivals climbed 14.5 percent to historic-high 2.623 million from the previous record of 2.291 million in 2004.

The country's tourism industry continues to grow as a result of the DOT's market-driven campaigns, Durano said, even as he committed to further intensify the department's marketing efforts abroad.

He noted that the Philippines bagged five international recognition awards in the first quarter of the year in its participation in various travel and tourism expos in Asia specifically in Korea, Japan and China.

These awards included the Best Booth Award at the International Travel Fair in Guangzhou, reputed to be the oldest international travel exhibition in China; the Best Tourism Publicity Award and the Best Booth Design Award in the 4th Tour Expo Daego 2006, one of the most attended events in Korea with annual visitors of 70,000; and two other prestigious awards – the Reader's Choice for the 3rd World's Best Dive Site and the 5th Prize as the Reader's Choice for the World's Best Resort Area in the recent Marine Diving Fair in Tokyo, Japan.

Because of improving tourist arrivals, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said some 400,000 new jobs are to be created in the tourism sector in 2006.

This was based on assumption that for every foreign tourist visiting the country, one job is being created for a Filipino.

Domestic tourism also peaked during the summer season before typhoon Caloy hit Luzon and Visayas over the weekend.

Hotels in Cebu, Davao, Boracay, Palawan and Bohol have reported full occupancy rates in April, while the largest deluxe hotels in Metro Manila registered occupancy rates above 90 percent.

Travel agencies complained of difficulty of finding accommodation for their corporate clients, as most rooms in upscale hotels and resorts in Cebu and Davao have already been reserved for conventions and seminars up to the month of July.

Buses plying the Manila-Baguio route were dispatched every five minutes to serve thousands of local tourists trying to catch a ride to the mountain resort city in the week ahead of the Labor Day.

Typhoon Caloy spared Baguio City, allowing foreign and local tourists to enjoy the cool weather of the city in the third week of May. Roderick T. dela Cruz

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