Tourists keep coming despite February coup

International visitor arrivals to the country grew by 11.5 percent year-on-year in February 2006, despite the botched coup attempt against the Arroyo administration that forced several foreign embassies to issue negative advisories on Philippine travel.

Data from the Tourism Research and Statistics Division, which is under the Office of Planning and Tourism Promotions of the Department of Tourism (DOT), showed that arrivals hit 223,053 in February, or 22,925 higher than 200,128 recorded a year ago.

In particular, foreign visitor arrivals grew 10.4 percent to 214,365 while overseas Filipinos' arrivals went up by 45.7 percent to 8,688 during the month.

This followed the 22.1 percent rise in international visitor arrivals to 268,818 in January 2006. In the whole of 2005, arrivals grew 14.5 percent to historic-high 2.623 million from the previous high of 2.291 million in 2004.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said that in the first two months of 2006, arrivals nearly touched the half-a-million level, or the highest for the period in record.

Combined arrivals in January and February climbed by 17 percent to 491,871 this year from only 420,376 a year ago. Durano said he is confident that the country would be able to attract around 3 million foreign visitors this year.

Data showed that South Korea has displaced the United States as the largest market for foreign tourists this year.

Arrivals from South Korea surged by 31.2 percent to 106,251 in the first two months of the year, while arrivals from the United States went up by 9.5 percent to 97,714.

The volume of foreign visitor arrivals from Japan, the third largest market, increased by 11.4 percent to 76,402 while arrivals from Taiwan grew by 12.7 percent to 23,486.

China was the fastest growing market for Philippine tourism, with arrivals from the world's most populated nation rising by 163 percent to 23,227 in January and February.

Other top sources of foreign visitors were Hong Kong, with 17,273; Australia, 15,954; Canada, 14,179; Singapore, 11,484; United Kingdom, 10,341; Germany, 9,789; and Malaysia, 8,060.

Durano said the robust foreign tourist arrivals to the Philippines are helping create thousands of jobs for fresh college graduates.

He said tourism-related establishments like hotels, resorts, restaurants, airlines, travel agencies, tour operators, shipping and transport firms, commercial centers and, tourism-oriented property developers are hiring at least 34,000 additional employees in the tourism sector in the first quarter of 2006 alone. Roderick T. dela Cruz. 

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