MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Tourism (DOT) fell short of reaching its 4.6 million tourist arrival target in 2012 despite the popularity of the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" campaign.
But Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez remains confident the Philippines will continue attracting foreign tourists this year. The DOT is targeting 5 million tourist arrivals in 2013.
"We are short by about a little less than 300,000 (of the 4.6 million target). I think to be fair it's more because some primary markets came out late starting out of the gate. We saw a snag in China arrivals... But even China numbers are up from a year ago. There isn't a single market where we market the Philippines where we aren't up," Jimenez said on ANC's Headstart.
Visitor arrivals from China were affected by the government's refusal to stamp Chinese passports with the map of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Jimenez noted there were only a little under 300,000 Chinese tourists that visited the country in 2012. But this was still slightly higher than the 243,137 Chinese visitors in 2011.
The number of tourists from key markets such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom and Germany also increased in 2012, but Jimenez did not give specific figures.
South Koreans remain the number one source of tourist arrivals. The Philippines reached a milestone last December as it welcomed its 1 millionth South Korean tourist.
However, the US and European countries' economic woes have affected tourism. Jimenez noted the US market still grew but it was not as much as the DOT had targeted.
"The most important reason why the growth is not that significant is that the economies of the West have really been down. They're not straying too far from home," the Tourism Secretary said.
DOT intensifies 'more fun' campaign
This year, Jimenez said the DOT will intensify its marketing campaign overseas.
"In 2013, we hope to cross the 5 million mark. We're on track... We will achieve that by putting our foot on the gas... You focus on key markets and know what's working, regroup and keep doing it," he said.
The DOT is hoping there will be more hotels built in the country to meet the growing demand.
"We have to keep building (hotels). In Metro Manila, we will close the year with close to 6,000 more rooms, that's not nearly enough. The objective is to grow by at least 27,000 rooms by 2016," Jimenez said.
As for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which has often been cited as one of the world's worst airports, Jimenez is confident its image can be turned around.
"I know what's coming. It will be more than adequate for our targets. We will meet our targets. We will turn that image around like how we turned our country's image around," he said.