MANILA, Philippines – Despite a massive earthquake and a super typhoon, the number of tourists that visited the country last year increased.
President Aquino said that the country has been surpassing its targets for domestic travel and foreign tourist arrivals, also noting an increase in tourist spending.
"Despite the calamities that the Philippines endured in 2013, this figure still grew by 10 percent to 4.7 million international arrivals last year," Aquino said in his speech at the opening of the 21st Travel Tour Expo organized by the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA).
The Department of Tourism on Thursday said foreign visitor arrivals jumped 9.56% to 4.68 million in 2013. South Korea remained the biggest source of tourists, rising 13% to 1.16 million in 2013.
"The good news is that, while the growth of international arrivals was affected last year, we found that international tourists have been spending more money on their visits here, with average daily expenditures among them increasing by 8.7 percent."
The DOT said total revenues gained from inbound visitors went up 15% to an estimated $4.40 billion (P186.15 billion) for 2013. Inbound tourists also increased their average daily expenditure by 8.7% to $101.12.
Aquino made a pitch for Philippine tourism anew, saying that the country is "making a transition to becoming one of the best places to visit in the world," pointing out various citations that the country has received by various international travel guides.
"Indeed: the whole world is in on the secret," he said, adding that his goal is to "cement our position as one of the world's vacation hot spots."
He cited efforts to upgrade airports and ports, implement reforms in civil aviation and carry out a pocket open skies policy.
He urged travel agents to help "discover" and promote and "hidden destinations" and make tourists return to the country.