Slight hike in Hong Kong tourist arrivals noted
The Department of Tourism has observed a slight increase in the number of Hong Kong tourists visiting the Philippines despite a “black travel” advisory issued against the country two years ago.
“The decline has been arrested,” said Daniel Corpuz, undersecretary for tourism planning and promotions in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of a national travel exhibit recently held in Pasay City.
Latest records showed the number of visitors from Hong Kong jumped by two percent in the first semester of this year from the 138,000 arrivals recorded during the same period of last year, according to Corpuz.
He said the government, including the DOT, continues to appeal to Hong Kong executives to lift the travel ban, which was issued two years ago after a bungled rescue of Hong Kong tourists held hostage in a bus resulted in the deaths of eight tourists.
“There is no official lifting yet of the so-called blacklist,” said Corpuz.
He added that dialogues with Hong Kong executives were continuing with Philippine consulate officials. The DOT has also been inviting Hong Kong officials for familiarization tours of the Philippines.
Just two months ago, the tourism agency “informally invited” some officials of the Hong Kong Tourism Board for a two to three-day visit to Manila, Corpuz disclosed.
Early this year, the DOT also met with the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TICHK) in a bid to convince it that the country was safe for tourists.
The TICHK is an influential umbrella organization of travel agencies in Hong Kong, the counterpart of the Philippine Tourism Authority and the Philippine Tour Operators Association.
The DOT also invited leaders of selected travel agencies in Hong Kong for a familiarization tour late last year.
Hong Kong put the Philippines on its travel blacklist in reaction to the botched rescue on Aug. 23, 2010, of Hong Kong tourists held hostage by a disgruntled Manila police officer. The former policeman, Rolando Mendoza, held the busload of tourists hostage for 10 hours at Rizal Park in a desperate attempt to get his job back. A breakdown in negotiations led Mendoza to fire shots in the bus, killing eight tourists and injuring many others. Mendoza was eventually killed by a police sniper.
Corpuz said they were generally optimistic that arrivals from all markets, including Hong Kong, would continue to increase.
“Our projections show all markets will increase in varying degrees but we have to have massive improvement and expansion of our international gateways—that means airports in Puerto Princesa, Tagbilaran, Kalibo as well as Clark,” said Corpuz.
He also noted that in order to exceed targets, there was also a need to boost the frequency of routes, increase airline seats and offer new tourism packages to potential visitors.
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