MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government broke its tourism record once again, with more than 7.1 million foreign visitors arriving in the country in 2018.
According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), the figure is 7.65% more than the 2017 figure of 6.6 million foreign visitors, despite the 6-month closure of top tourist destination Boracay. (INSIDE STORY: How Duterte decided on Boracay closure)
But the 2018 record still fell short of the DOT's target of 7.4 million tourist arrivals.
"The challenging act of closing down Boracay – a flagship destination, the country's top sun-and-beach destination – has evidently become a blessing in disguise for secondary tourism spots to have a share of the limelight and attention they truly deserve," Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said.
The DOT said the island's rehabilitation "opened opportunities" for other destinations such as Siargao, Iloilo, Palawan, La Union, Romblon, and Siquijor. (READ: Which tourist spots will be rehabilitated after Boracay?)
"With this, we have also seen the transition from a mass tourism perspective shifting into a high-value tourism direction that prioritizes quality over mere quantity," Puyat said.
DOT data showed that South Korea remained to be the country's top source market with 1.59 million of its citizens visiting the Philippines in 2018.
China came in second with a record high of 1.26 million arrivals. The influx of Chinese tourists in the country made China the "most improved market" according to the DOT, with a 29.62% growth rate.
China overtook the United States as the second top source market. The US is third, with 1.03 million tourist arrivals.
January had the most number of tourist arrivals in 2018 at 732,506 visitors. December recorded 687,726 foreign visitors, the second highest month.
The government is eyeing 8.2 million tourists in 2019, as stated in the National Tourism Development Plan 2016-2022.