Jimenez: Tourism grew despite problems
MANILA, Philippines–Despite “the dark predictions” for the tourism sector after China’s blanket travel ban, the Philippines managed to chalk up 3.5-percent growth in tourist arrivals last year, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) missed its target of welcoming six million foreign tourists by 2014, citing a number of factors, including the effects of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name Haiyan) in 2014 and Beijing’s advisory to its citizens not to travel to the Philippines.
“We met a lot of problems in 2014 but we ended the year with growth. That is very modest, but the income we got that year is still on target,” Jimenez told reporters in an interview.
According to a DOT report, there were 4.83 million tourist arrivals in 2014, a 3.25-percent increase over the previous year.
The DOT said tourism revenues reached P214.8 billion ($4.86 billion) last year.
“The number of foreign arrivals declined because of China and Haiyan, but we were able to improve our product offering. We actually made more money. Our revenue was so strong,” Jimenez said.
He noted that the foreign tourists were convinced to stay longer.
And since revenues in the tourism industry are rising, Jimenez said more jobs are also being generated.
Jimenez attributed the slight growth in arrivals to the booming markets of the United States, Taiwan and Japan.
South Korea remains the Philippines’ top source of tourists, followed by the United States, Japan, China and Australia.
Asked about the sector’s targets for 2015, Jimenez said the DOT was focusing on raising tourism revenues.
“We are approaching the $6-billion mark. In 2010, we started from $3 billion. If we are able to double the business, we are OK,” he said.
As part of its Visit the Philippines 2015 campaign, the DOT intends to be more site-specific, highlighting particular destinations in its advertisements.
“Now we are advertising Davao, Cebu, Bohol. We are getting people to be familiar with more places in the Philippines,” Jimenez said.
The department has also included “gastronomy” in the new areas for improvement and promotion.
“We are working very hard to improve our reputation in gastronomy. It’s the 21st century. Millennials are going to demand better cooking and better food for a richer experience,” he said.
On Sept. 12, 2014, China issued an advisory to its citizens, warning against travel to the Philippines because it said the security situation had worsened following reports of an alleged bomb plot against the Chinese Embassy and the kidnapping of an 18-year-old Chinese man in Mindanao.
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