Tourist arrivals up 22 percent in January

After growing 14 percent to around 2.6 million in 2005, international visitor arrivals to the Philippines surged 22.1 percent year-on-year in January, buoyed by the staging of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Tourism Forum in Davao City.

Data from the Tourism Research and Statistics Division of the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed that foreign arrivals hit a new record-high 268,818 in January 2006, up from 220,248 from January 2005 and 207,755 from January 2004.

According to Assistant Secretary Eduardo Jarque Jr., head of DOT's Planning and Tourism Promotion Division, there are indications that arrivals continued to grow in February despite the dramatic political development in its last week. He said the department's target of drawing 3 million visitors this year is on track.

In his latest advisory sent to different foreign embassies, Tourism Secretary Jose Ace Durano said travel to the Philippines remains safe and secure. "Primary tourist destinations in Metro Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, Boracay and the rest of the country are undisturbed. No major cancellations of groups traveling to the islands have been reported," he said.

Durano said the DOT together with law enforcement agencies continues to monitor all activities within the major tourist destinations.

Tourism officials said foreign arrivals are also expected to receive a boost from two international conferences that will be held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City in March.

The Philippine Constructors Association (PCA) said it has won the right to host "Konstruktura Asya 2006", the only international exhibition of the Asia Pacific Construction Industry, on March 15 to 18. The event is expected to draw over 5,000 international and 12,500 local conference delegates and over 40,000 trade buyers.

Coinciding with the event is the "Mining Asya 2006", which is also being organized by PCA with the help of Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association.

Data showed that arrivals from South Korea went up by 29.8 percent to 58,583 in January 2006. Korea has already edged out the United States as the top market for Philippine tourism.

Arrivals from the United States grew by 8.6 percent to 53,225 while guests from Japan increased by 12.5 percent to 41,014. Visitors from the top three markets accounted for nearly 58 percent of total foreign tourists in January.

The next largest group is comprised of Chinese visitors. Arrivals from Mainland China quadrupled to 13,015 while arrivals from Taiwan grew 45 percent to 12,793. Visitors from Hong Kong were up by 4.5 percent to 10,759.

Other countries in the top-ten list were Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. MANILA STANDARD TODAY

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