DIPOLOG CITY – The maritime row between Manila and Beijing has taken its toll on tourist arrivals in the Philippines.
President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday conceded that the Department of Tourism (DOT) failed to meet its target of 4.6 million tourist arrivals last year because of tensions over the West Philippine Sea.
In a speech at the inauguration of the new building of a private college here, the President did not specifically name China, but alluded to a “big nation” that jeopardized DOT’s target in 2012.
“It’s because we have a neighbor, which is a big country, that is somewhat harsh at us once in a while. It’s barring its citizens from visiting us,” he said, but quickly added:
“This caused us to miss (the DOT target), but that’s alright.”
The President, however, was still upbeat about the sudden influx of tourists in the country considering the measly tourist arrivals for the last nine years and a half under his predecessor.
“The tourist arrivals, for the entire nine and a half years, were perhaps 1.6 or 1.9 million. But it eventually reached three million. In the two years that we’re in charge, the three million almost became 4.6 (million) last year. But our target (for 2016 is) 10 million. So why did we fail to hit 4.6 million?” he asked, pointing out that only 4.3 million had been recorded by the DOT.
The DOT has launched an aggressive campaign to direct tourist traffic to the many islands of the country under the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan.
Specifically, a grand total of 4,272,811 tourists visited the country last year, the first time the country breached the four million mark.
Although the target for the year was missed, the DOT earlier said in a statement that the figure was a 9.07-percent increase over the 3,917,454 visitors in 2011.
It said that crossing the four-million mark was a feat in itself.
The DOT attributed “some shortfalls” to “economic and political pressures” (in the) traditional markets such as the United States, Europe and China.”
“Despite a few bumps on the road, all key source markets still registered positive growth for the year,” said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, optimistic that his agency was on track to achieving its ultimate goal of 10 million visitor arrivals by 2016.
Despite the obvious lack of infrastructure to access countless attractions across the archipelago, he still believed that crossing the five-million milestone in 2013 was still achievable.