Hong Kong tourist arrivals seen to rise

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Apr 24 2014 12:03 PM | Updated as of Apr 25 2014 01:10 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Tourist arrivals from Hong Kong are expected to increase further following the resolution of a long-running dispute over a hostage crisis that started in 2010.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said tourist arrivals from Hong Kong have been on the rise even before the black travel alert was lifted.

He noted that Hong Kong is among the country’s top 10 tourist source markets.

“Even before the amber alert, and before the upgrade, it was already growing slightly but of course we didn't want to flaunt it. It will now grow a lot faster,” he told ANC on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Hong Kong government announced that it has adjusted the travel alert to “amber,” which means that “Hong Kong residents who intend to visit the country or are already there should monitor the situation, exercise caution and attend to personal safety.”

Jimenez added that travel to and from China is “unimpeded” despite the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines.

“The good news about China is—and I'm almost afraid to jinx it—we are growing by about 67 percent in 2013. They are up from a little over 200,000 to over 450,000 in 2013, in spite of everything…There is a certain momentum in travel that is above all the tension, there is a kind of a tacit agreement around the world that tourism is not part of any political [issue],” he said.

China is the Philippines’ fourth top tourist source behind South Korea, US, and Japan.

“While it is true that more and more Filipinos are going to Japan, more and more Japanese are also going to the Philippines,” Jimenez said.

Marketing campaign

The tourism secretary also revealed that the second phase of the DOT marketing campaign will be site-specific, focusing on tourist hotspots like Boracay, Cebu and Davao.

“We’re leveraging our islands as much as we can,” said Jimenez.

The DOT recently released an ad on Boracay, promoting it as “Asia’s 24/7 island.”

“Boracay is unabashedly, and we will not apologize for the fact that it is really a party island. We have many other quiet, blue, serene islands. That’s not what Boracay is, Boracay is the island that the young people of Asia built and we intend to unashamedly market it that way,” said Jimenez.

“Travel is not about sitting around and waiting for people to arrive, it’s about active marketing, and this is what we are trying to do, and what Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and the other airlines are trying to do,” he added.

More tourist arrivals are also expected in 2015, which has been declared by the DOT as "Visit Philippines year."

Jimenez said the agency is also looking into bringing in more world-class tourism events and improving festivals in the coming months.