MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine tourism industry is on a roll with foreign investor arrivals hitting 1.8 million, more than half its annual average in the first five months of they year.
President Benigno Aquino III credited the country's open skies policy, as well as improvements on its roads and infrastructure.
"In the first five months of 2012 alone, we welcomed over 1.8 million tourists. This number is more than half of the yearly average of three million arrivals in the years before we took office. This number is also 39.6 percent of the 4.6 million tourist arrivals we hope to get this year. If all goes as planned, it seems that we will achieve, and maybe even breach this target," said Aquino.
Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said despite a dip in visitors from China, government has reason to be optimistic about meeting this year's target tourist arrivals, given the success of recent road shows, the country's new tourism campaign, and aggressive marketing and promotions efforts in three major Philippine markets, Korea, the United States and Japan.
"Response to the campaign has been overwhelming. As we move into the second half of the year, that's where we see the rapid growth rate of arrivals. Right now, were on track and were very confident we'll reach our 4.6M target by the end of the year," he said.
Bengzon said the department is also looking to other profitable markets like Russia and India.
"In terms of ROI (return of investments) Russia would be among the most profitable markets. We also see a huge potential in the Indian market because there's a huge middle class, upper middle class segment and this is what we'd like to tap in the road show," added Bengzon.
Paz Alberto, one of the organizers of the Travel Expo and Vice President of Travel Innovators echoed Bengzon's statement.
"No visa for Indians holding visa for US, UK, Singapore, Japan, Australia and schengen. All the Indians holding all these valid visas to these countries can come to the Philippines without having to apply for a visa, just for 30 days," Alberto said.
Bengzon noted that some 28 million Filipinos travelling every year can serve as multiplier force for tourism to the Philippines.
"The more they move around the Philippines, the more they get to know about the tourist destinations and when they're out there, the more they're in a better position to talk about what Bohol has to offer, Palawan or Davao," Bengzon said.
Bengzon added, “There are far more options now in terms of options, flights. There's a greater awareness of what the Philippines has to offer in terms of tourism and the rich historical and cultural heritage.”
Meanwhile, Alberto expects a mad rush for value for money packages during the Travel Madness Expo scheduled at the SMX Convention Center from July 20 to 22.
“Its total madness the rates are really cheap. For the 3-day period, the airlines will give us fantastic rates. We have this madness travel hour where the buyers have a chance to buy Hong Kong for only $15 with a free Disney pass ticket. We have a 5-star accommodation in Indonesia only for $98. A lot of travelers are already excited about buying their trips for October, December,” said Alberto.