The United States accounted for the third biggest source of visitors to the Philippines during 2019 with 1.06 million tourist arrivals, according to the latest figures from the Department of Tourism.
The DOT on Monday, February 17 revealed that the country’s tourist arrivals exceeded its 8.2 million full-year target with 8.26 million arrivals.
This year-end figure also exceeded the 7.16 million arrivals in 2018.
“This heralds a new milestone in the country’s tourism history, breaching the eight-millionth mark,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat in a statement.
She added, “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.
Puyat said that this is a high point for Philippine tourism as it depicts the solidarity and commitment to make tourism work. It also proves the sector’s full potential as a sustainable and inclusive economic activity, she said.
The DOT’s data showed that South Korea remained the Philippines’ top source market with 1.98 million arrivals. This is followed by China, whose tourist arrivals increased by 38.58% to 1.74 million in 2019 — the largest increase recorded among markets.
After the U.S., Japan ranked next with 682,788 arrivals, while Taiwan settled for fifth place 327,273 arrivals.
This year, the DOT is targeting to attract 9.2 million international visitor arrivals despite the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
Puyat acknowledged that the outbreak will likely impact greatly on the tourism industry’s performance as China is the country’s second-largest source of tourists.
The tourism sector could lose P16.8 billion this February, P14.11 billion in March and P11.98 billion in April, for a total of P42.9 billion, the tourism secretary estimated.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose C. Clemente III, meanwhile, said it is “too early” to determine how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect the full-year tourist arrivals target.
“(For the first quarter) definitely, it’s going to be affected. Let’s say it’s safe to say it will probably be down by about 30%, just to be safe about it, from [the first quarter] of the previous year’s arrivals,” he said.