By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu – South Korea is again the Philippines’ top source of foreign visitors so far this year.
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco bared this on Thursday when she greeted a batch of 300 travelers from South Korea at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
The travelers are members of the Korea branch of UNICITY, a direct selling company on health functional foods, cosmetics and household items and with over 60 markets globally.
As a reward to their top agents, sellers, and distributors, UNICITY-Korea sends a big volume of incentive groups to Southeast Asian countries annually.
This year, the company is sending 1,400 people in four batches (April 9, 13, 17, and 21) to Cebu.
Department of Tourism data showed a significant pick up in Korean arrivals since last year, with 428,014 or a 16.13 percent share of the country’s arrivals received between Feb. 10 — when the country eased its borders for leisure travelers — up until Dec. 31, 2022.
“The good news is that as of today, we have over 1.5 million tourist arrivals to the Philippines and our number one top source market are the Koreans. So we’re very grateful to our friends from Korea for continuing to show their love for the Philippines as they have come back in droves, and the UNICITY group in particular, has come with a delegation of no less than 1,400 individuals,” Frasco said.
Upon their arrival, the travelers were welcomed with leis and performances by Filipiniana-clad rondalla serenaders as well as by Sinulog dancers.
Prior to the pandemic, Korea ranked number one in terms of visitor arrivals to the Philippines, with 1,989,322 or 24.08 percent of the country’s total number of arrivals for 2019.
Arrivals from Korea declined drastically during the pandemic, dropping to 338,877 and 6,456, for 2020 and 2021, respectively.
“They’re coming on a daily basis and the numbers are increasing by the day. Last year, they were at number two, because it is the United States that [provided] our number one top source market. But this year, the Koreans have reclaimed the number one spot and we send out the message to all our friends in Korea, that you are more than welcome to keep coming back again and again to Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, and the rest of our beautiful islands in the Philippines,” Frasco said.
PH as ideal MICE destination
Frasco noted that the arrival of a delegation as big as the UNICITY group is a welcome development especially with the DOT “seeing MICE tourism become a very strong product for the Philippines and also for Cebu.”
“They are staying for a few days and we expect that this will contribute greatly to the economy of Cebu in particular, and to the rest of the country in general, considering the multiplier effect of tourism is really so that they will support our local tourism stakeholders, our small and medium enterprises, and the like,” Frasco said.
To further boost the Korean tourism source market and visitor arrivals, the DOT, through its office in Korea, carries out marketing initiatives including an online presentation to educate the MICE (meetings, incentives, conference, events) players in the Philippines about the Korean MICE market, as well as participation to upcoming key events such as business-to-business fairs, and a MICE roadshow.
“We’re certainly also pitching for Bohol as an attractive island tourism destination in Central Visayas, especially considering the variety of offerings that Bohol has especially in terms of nature-based tourism as well as pilgrimage and heritage tourism,” she said. (PNA)