Chinese tourists returning to Philippines—DOTBy Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—More and more Chinese are coming to the Philippines again following a slowdown arising from the deepening of the territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing over the Scarborough Shoal early this year.
Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said the Department of Tourism (DoT) observed a dip in the number of visitors from mainland China between May and October this year but they have been seeing an uptick in arrivals lately.
“There was a slowdown but the good news is, the charters are coming back,” said Bengzon in an interview with reporters.
Records showed that charter flights between Shanghai and Kalibo, suspended following the heightening of the dispute, resumed on Nov. 30 and the number of charter planes flying from various parts of China to main destinations in the Philippines have begun to pick up, Bengzon said.
He said that he expected charter flights from Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing to Kalibo, Aklan, the gateway to the country’s famous beach getaway, Boracay Island, and to Cebu would become more regular in the first quarter of 2013.
Each charter flight would bring Chinese tourists to the country by the hundreds, Bengzon said.
He said that while the number of Chinese visitors dropped in the middle of the year, the running total as of October remained “positive.”
“That’s because we have a very huge growth rate from January to April, which was close to 80 percent,” he noted.
Arrivals from China, the country’s fourth-largest tourist market, numbered 150,479 from January to June this year.
At the height of tensions in May, many bookings to resorts and hotels on Boracay from China were cancelled, prompting Air Philippines to suspend the thrice-weekly charter flights between Kalibo and Shanghai.
Although no official travel ban has been imposed by China, it was believed that government officials verbally directed travel agents to suspend bookings to the Philippines, Bengzon said.
Next year, he added, the DoT would continue to be aggressive in its marketing efforts in China by organizing more familiarization tours for Chinese travel agents and the media.
“We will also continue participating in major travel fairs in China and we will also continue to support the charter operators,” he said.