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Chinese visitors to Philippines soar 200% in past 5 months

11 July 2016 - Feliks Cheang, China Daily/The Nation

The Philippines is emerging as a more attractive destination for holidaymakers from the Chinese mainland despite geopolitical concerns, according to industry insiders.

Tour operators see the Philippines adopting more pragmatic policies, such as visa-free entry for Chinese citizens, to attract more tourists.

Ctrip, China’s leading online travel agency, noted that the visitor numbers from the Chinese mainland to the Philippines have soared 200 per cent in the last five months.

“Currently, we see an increasing number of Chinese tourists heading to the Philippines,” Ctrip told China Daily Asia Weekly.

The Philippine archipelago — which is blessed with more than 7,000 islands, spectacular natural scenery and abundant marine life — has been welcoming rising numbers of Chinese tourists since mid-2015, Ctrip said.

Following the slump in tourism from 2012 to 2014, visitors from China increased 62.44 per cent from 33,250 arrivals in April 2015 to 54,011 in April this year.

Visitors from China also secured the third spot with a count of 238,523 and a share of 11.5 per cent in the first four months of 2016, according to a report by the Philippines’ Department of Tourism.

According to research in April from the Hong Kong-based investment house CLSA titled, Great Wall of Chinese, arrivals to the Philippines from the Chinese mainland may outnumber tourists from traditional markets such as Japan and the United States in the next few years.

The catch-up in visitor numbers is good news for the Philippine economy, as tourism contributed 10.6 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2015, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The travel industry now hopes that the new Duterte administration will improve relations between China and the Philippines and boost tourism.

“We hope the new Philippines president will launch more policies (that will benefit the) travel industry,” Ctrip said. “We are hoping for visa-free access for Chinese tourists.”

The online travel agency said the Philippines remains a favorite holiday destination for lovers of nature, adventure sports and beaches.

The CLSA report also noted that the number of Chinese visitors to the Philippines has seen the biggest year-over-year growth, leading other Asia-Pacific countries with a 130-per cent gain.