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DOT Chief expects faster tourism recovery for Phl with more tourists arrival

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By Alithea De Jesus

With the recent record of 2.65 million international visitor arrivals in the Philippines from last December 31, 2022 data, Tourism Chief Christina Garcia Frasco sees this as a harbinger of the country’s tourism industry rebound.

Last January 24 in time for the celebration of the Chinese New Year, the continuous influx of Mainland Chinese visitors amidst the issue of COVID-19 in their home country, was warmly welcomed by Frasco following the easing of outbound travel restrictions in China.

Frasco together with China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, and Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Cesar Chiong, Xiamen Air General Manager of Manila Office Yan Tan, welcomed the batch of visitors arriving onboard Xiamen Airlines flight MF819.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian hand gifts to the arriving visitors from China onboard Xiamen Airlines flight MF819. Frasco and Xilian were joined by Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Cesar Chiong, Xiamen Air General Manager of Manila Office Yan Tan. (Photo from DOT OPAA)   

The party made sure the guests, about 190 passengers who departed from the Chinese City of Xiamen past 2:00pm and arrived at the country’s main gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 at 4:55pm, were greeted with the world-renowned Filipino hospitality.

The visitors were presented with leis and gifts from the DOT, MIAA, the Embassy of China in the Philippines, and a Filipino-Chinese private stakeholders organization.

The welcome ceremony was made even more colorful and lively by Filipino bamboo orchestra musicians.

“The arrival of Chinese tourists to the Philippines signals a very auspicious start to the New Year and indicates a positive result of President Bongbong Marcos Jr.’s state visit to China to further the relations between our countries,” Secretary Frasco said.

“We anticipate even more Chinese tourists to arrive which will greatly help us in our efforts to transform and recover the tourism industry as our intention is not only to regain our pre-pandemic numbers but to exceed it knowing how the relationship between the Philippines and China will only further improve in the years to come with the stance of both our governments,” the tourism chief added.

The early batch of Chinese visitors made the Philippines the latest country to welcome their return for inbound travel after China lifted restrictions to outbound travels of its nationals. Such a move is seen to positively impact economies as China remains one of the world’s top sources of foreign tourists with high visitor spending.

“We believe that with the development of our tourism cooperation that there will be a growing number of Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines to enjoy the beauty of this country,” remarked Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.

“The recent state visit of President (Ferdinand Marcos) to China, both presidents of China and the Philippines have agreed to make people to people exchanges as one of the four already areas of cooperation and of course during the visits, our  tourism cooperation was actually signed so I think that today’s event is also one of the measures to implement the agreement reached by our two leaders,” Ambassador Xilian added.

Meanwhile, the country is among the 20 nations identified by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism to be part of its pilot areas for outbound tourism group tours, including its neighboring ASEAN nations Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, as well as Sri Lanka, the Maldives, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Argentina, Cuba, and Fiji.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the government of the People’s Republic of China for identifying the Philippines as one of the first 20 countries where group tours are allowed. The Philippines is open and ready to welcome our friends from China as we continue to improve the relationship between our two nations which spans millennia. We welcome you to the Philippines and we cannot wait to let you feel the warmth of the Filipino people and to enjoy our award-winning beach destinations and all our nature-based offerings. The Philippines is a country blessed with many islands, a wealth of cultural offerings, wonderful food, and the warmth of the Filipino people. And we look forward to all of you visiting our country,” Secretary Frasco remarked.

At the time when the Philippines recorded an 8.26 million all-time high international visitor arrivals in 2019, China ranked as the second country with the most number of visitors brought to the Philippines amounting to over 1.7 million visitors next to South Korea.

But as the Chinese government imposed lockdown measures, outbound Chinese tourists declined over time.

The upward trend of arrivals is now seen where as of January 24, 2023, China earned the 10th spot in terms of international tourist arrivals with 6,673 visitors with almost half or 45.68 percent visiting the country for holiday or pleasure.

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