The country is "on track" with its 2018 target for international arrivals after foreign tourists to the Philippines reached an "all-time high" of 3.706 million in the first half of the year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said.
"We are actually on track. We are halfway the year and we are exactly halfway of our National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) target arrivals," DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.
Data gathered by the DOT Statistics, Economic Analysis and Information Management Division (SEAIMD) showed that foreign arrivals from January to June of 2018 registered a 10.40 percent growth compared to the 3.357 million arrivals last year.
South Korea remains as the country's top tourist market, with a total of 818,683 visitors for the first half of 2018, followed by China with 645,089 and the United States with 557,833.
The growth was triggered by the 11.34 percent increase of June 2018 arrivals that registered 528,747 visitors compared to the 474,854 arrivals from the same period last year.
In data obtained by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Chinese tourists posted a 29.87 percent growth this June, the highest among the top ten markets, with 85,800 this year against the 66,066 arrivals in 2017.
Romulo-Puyat is optimistic that the first six months of 2018 serves as a "clear manifestation" that the targeted 7.4 million tourist arrivals by the end of the year is "achievable."
The official also attributed the statistics' upward trajectory to DOT’s partnership with the private sector and intensified convergence with relevant government agencies.
“The DOT’s continuous marketing promotions, aggressive actions to create new air routes and develop new tourism products, travel facilitation, and confidence in tourism investments drummed up the industry and resulted to this stellar performance. But I would like to emphasize that this will not be possible without the consolidated efforts of all stakeholders,” she said.
Philippines, France eye deeper tourism cooperation, set sights on faith tourism
The French Embassy in Manila is optimistic on the further development of France and Philippine relations, with the two countries' upcoming bilateral meeting on tourism.
During the Bastille Day celebration in Makati City over the weekend, French Ambassador Nicolas Galey cited an active partnership between Manila and Paris in terms of defense, cultural exchange, and education.
He shared that both sides' bilateral agenda have been "very busy" in the last few months, with their political consultation in December 2017, the joint committees on defense in March 2018, and their engagement on academic cooperation last May.
"More is to come with the joint economic committee and a bilateral meeting on tourism," Galey said in a speech on Saturday.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) and relevant French agencies are expected to hold their first working group meeting in Manila by the second half of 2018, following a September 2017 agreement that seeks to establish a joint committee on tourism.
In 2017, France welcomed almost 90,000 Filipinos. Meanwhile, the Philippines received at least 64,777 French tourists, a 16.96 percent increase from 2016.
Galey earlier noted that the Philippines could still explore its potential, once its tourism services and infrastructure are further developed.
He said developing tourism "doesn't mean only having more tourists on both sides," but also improving the infrastructure and tourism services of the receiving country.
Paris and Manila share a common focus on tourism--to promote pilgrimage as a contributor to tourist arrivals.
According to the 2017 Annuario Pontificio, or Pontifical Yearbook, and the Vatican Statistical Yearbook, eight of 10 Filipinos are Catholics, accounting for 82,212,678 believers in 2015.
In April 2018, a delegation of French tourism professionals visited Manila and Cebu to promote its spiritual tourism.
Of France's 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 11 are religious. These are the Abbey Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe, the Amiens Cathedral, the Bourges Cathedral, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Chartres Cathedral, Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay, Episcopal City of Albi, Historic Centre of Avignon, Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay, Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France, and the Vézelay, Church and Hill.
Manila also offers a similar product, the faith-based tourism, which seeks to highlight a multitude of religious landmarks in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao--the three main regions of the Philippines. (PNA/Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)