Gov't to lure tourists from other countries amid China row

By Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 01 2012 11:24 AM | Updated as of Jul 01 2012 07:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government will endeavor to attract tourists from other countries as the territorial row between the Philippines and China has taken its toll on Boracay Island, which lost around 200,000 Chinese visitors after travel agencies from Beijing suspended travel packages to Manila last May.

"We are hoping that can be sourced from other market. The arrivals can be upped from other markets that we have. We have a lot of tourists also coming in from Korea," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio dzRB.

The Philippines is also looking for other markets for banana and other fruit exports after China imposed more stringent rules.

Aklan Gov. Carlito Marquez noted that Chinese tourists constitute around a fifth of the visitors of the world-famous tourist spot.

"The ban imposed by China was a setback somehow. Some carriers had to cancel flights. We lost a big chunk (of visitors). The Chinese represent 15 to 20 percent of tourists," Marquez said.

He noted that about 986,000 visitors visit through their province’s ports last year.

Hotel bookings, however, reached about 1.2 million as it included those who did not travel by sea.

About 60,000 Chinese tourists visit Boracay every year through direct international flights from China.

Based on Marquez’s estimates, Chinese tourists who canceled their trips to Boracay numbered from about 180,000 to 240,000.

He is hopeful, however, that the dispute between China and the Philippines over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal will be resolved peacefully.

"Nobody wants enmity. We want to coexist peacefully," he said.

Last month, Chinese travel agencies suspended tourist packages to the Philippines amid a territorial row between the two countries over Panatag Shoal.

Chinese travel agencies even promised refund to customers who have booked trips in a move viewed by some observers as a way to pressure the Philippines to yield to China’s position on the issue.

Panatag Shoal is located 124 nautical miles from the nearest base point in Zambales.

The area is within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).