No Major Drop in Number of Tourist Arrivals in C. Visayas Despite Travel Warnings 

Tourists continue to visit Central Visayas despite the recent encounter between security forces and a terror group in Bohol and several travel warnings issued against the Philippines.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) assured this Thursday, noting that any minor decline in tourism numbers in the coming months would not affect the target of acquiring 6.5 to 7 million foreign tourist arrivals by yearend.

Travel agencies earlier reported a number of cancelled trips from Japan, US, Europe among other countries. However, the DOT explained that this had little effect on overall tourism numbers.

DOT Secretary Wanda Teo said that cancellations were “minimal” and assured that the agency coordinates with law enforcement authorities to assure the safety of tourists.

“Every time there are travel advisories, tourism numbers lie low for a while. But after a month, tourists return. Cancellations are minimal,” Teo said in a press conference in Makati City.

Though privy on details, DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. also revealed that a high-profile Japanese TV production team from Kansai is pushing through with its plan to shoot in Cebu despite concerns on tourism safety.

Meanwhile, several foreign tour operators, including an 80-member English as a second language (ESL) group, also pushed through with their familiarization tours in Cebu, Bohol, and Iloilo.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Bohol will also push through as scheduled this week.

“These are good indications that the confidence of the overseas traveler is (still) very high,” Bengzon said.

Despite recent canceled trips from around 150 Korean tourists, Bengzon said that still other Korean tourists decided to push through with their visit.

“Every day, we get about 3,600 Korean tourists on average. We received a report of 150 cancellations. I think it’s easy enough to conclude whether that has had a significant effect on the flow of arrivals,” Bengzon said.

“We are not brushing this off. We take this matter very seriously. But it is very clear that there are a lot more tourists that decided to push through with their travel to Philippines,” he added.

Fair advisories

Teo said that she had also coordinated with UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai to renew her call to encourage foreign counterparts to issue “fair” travel advisories and eventually lift them.

“Every time there’s kidnapping, we immediately get travel advisories that it’s not safe to travel in the Philippines. This is not exactly true,” Teo said.

She expressed hope that Rifai would help compel Foreign Affairs ministries in other countries to eventually rethink or lift the travel advisories against the Philippines.

The Secretary said that this way, the department could also safeguard the local people who are dependent on tourism. (PNA)Azer N. Parrocha

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