By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

Tourists marvel at the sunrise on top of the Osmeña Peak in Badian, Cebu. (Photo courtesy of DOT)

MANILA – The Philippines welcomed a total of 5,450,557 international visitors in 2023, well above the 4.8 million target arrivals the Department of Tourism (DOT) earlier set for the entire year.

Of this number, 91.80 percent or 5,003,475 are foreigners while the remaining are 447,082 overseas Filipinos.

From January to Dec. 31, 2023, the country also generated an estimated PHP482.54 billion in international tourism revenue, more than double the receipts it recorded in 2022.

“My deepest appreciation goes to every tourism stakeholder, collaborative partner, and passionate contributor who propelled our shared aspirations forward. Under President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.’s guiding vision and leadership, tourism has become a pivotal force driving our nation’s economic resurgence,” Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said in a statement Tuesday.

“These numbers speak very well of the performance of the tourism industry under the Marcos Administration,” she added.

She said the DOT will continue its work to “realize the vision of this administration to make tourism a catalyst for economic growth and resurgence.”

More than a quarter or 1,439,336 of the arrivals came from South Korea, retaining its spot as the country’s main source of international visitors.

This was followed by the United States with 903,299 tourists (16.57 percent) visiting the country; Japan with 305,580 (5.61 percent); Australia with 266,551 (4.89 percent); and China with 263,836 (4.84 percent).

Ranking sixth was Canada followed by Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Frasco said the 2023 visitor receipts also show that the tourism industry is “recovering faster than expected.”

The country’s 2023 international tourism receipts grew by 124.87 percent compared with the PHP214.58 billion estimated visitor receipts from 2022.

Before the pandemic in 2019, the DOT recorded PHP482.15 billion in international tourism receipts.

READ: PH tourism, a year of exceeding expectations

In 2023, the DOT’s marketing arm the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) generated PHP6.317 billion in total sales leads both from international and local business-to-business and promotional events.

While reintroducing Filipino destinations before the global tourism arena, the Philippines represented by Frasco last year was also elected Vice President of the 25th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a prestigious global position last held by the country more than two decades ago.

She was also elected as chair of the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific, allowing the country to host the Joint Regional Meetings of the Committee for East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia in Cebu in 2024.

The Philippines in 2023 bagged at least 15 travel and tourism honors from prestigious award-giving bodies in diving, beach, cruise, culinary, retirement, and Muslim-friendly tourism, “a testament that the Philippines is indeed an emerging tourism powerhouse.”

“The extraordinary journey of Philippine tourism in 2023 saw the world express its love for the Philippines with our country’s rise to global prominence as the World’s Leading Beach and Dive Destination, and Asia’s Best Cruise Destination, among many other accolades,” Frasco said.

“The indomitable spirit of the Filipino has been globally acclaimed with the Philippines receiving the Global Tourism Resilience Award with our country seen as a benchmark for innovation amidst trials and challenges,” she added.

By 2024, the DOT targets 7.7 million international visitors, around 500,000 lower than the country’s pre-pandemic arrivals of 8.2 million.

“Looking ahead to 2024, our commitment to the transformation of Philippine tourism is unwavering. Guided by our National Tourism Development Plan 2023-2028, we are poised for a thriving tourism landscape, evident in surpassing our targets in international and domestic arrivals and receipts, fostering economic prosperity and further job creation for our people,” Frasco said. (PNA)