DOT’s Jimenez cites travel ban, Yolanda aftermath as challenges to 2014 tourism target

Aerial shot of the province of which was heavily damaged by super typhoon Yolanda (MNS photo)

Aerial shot of the province of which was heavily damaged by super typhoon Yolanda (MNS photo)

MANILA, Nov 13 (Mabuhay) – Travel ban on the Philippines imposed by other countries and the aftermath of killer Typhoon Yolanda are the biggest hurdles to achieving 6.8 million foreign tourist arrivals this year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) chief told reporters late Wednesday.

It is still too early to tell whether the Philippines will hit its mark in terms of the number of foreign tourists, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said in an interview on the sidelines of the Asia CEO Awards in Parañaque City.

“Although we have a lot of catching up to do because of Typhoon Yolanda – the effects still being felt –and there is still some tightness because of some travel advisories… But we are bouncing back, we are growing in all markets,” he said.

In 2013, the Philippines missed a 5.5 million target as foreign visitors reached only 4.7 million as the industry reeled from Yolanda in November and the Bohol earthquake in October. Still, it was a bit higher than the 4.3 million in 2012.

In April, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government said it adjusted the travel alert for the Philippines from black to amber, which means Hong Kong residents who intend to visit the country or are already there should monitor the situation, exercise caution, and attend to personal safety.

The black travel alert was imposed following the August 2010 Manila hostage crisis that claimed the lives of eight tourists from Hong Kong and the sacked policeman-turned-hostage taker.

In September, China issued a travel advisory warning of supposed security concerns in the Philippines.

‘Part of the growth market’

Despite the setbacks, Jimenez said the Philippines was still able to register growth in tourist arrivals.

“We are growing very significantly in the sense that, contrary to what people expect, the Philippines is still part of the growth market,” he said.

“The hard numbers we have are only up to September. We are up about 4 percent, the revenue has grown by about 17 percent. We’re making more money than we made last year, because they’re staying longer,” he said, but declined to give the September numbers.

As of end-August visitor arrivals reached 3.267 million, up 2.72 percent from of 3.18 million a year earlier, DOT data showed.

Jimenez noted the major sources of tourists are still South Korea, United States, China, Japan, Germany and UK.

“It’s not about the number of tourist arrivals, it’s how much revenue you make per tourist. And the Philippines makes healthy revenue per tourist,” the Tourism secretary said.  (MNS)

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