DOT dispels fears about travel to PH, decline in tourist arrivals

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Tourism secretary Wanda Teo says tourism industry still looks bright.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — The Department of Tourism (DOT) dispels both fears about travel to the Philippines — and concerns about a decline in the number of foreign tourists coming in.

Secretary Wanda Teo echoed on Thursday Malacañang's assurance that it remained safe to visit local travel spots — despite advisories issued by a number of countries warning their nationals about visiting parts of the Philippines. The national police had also given assurance that there was no imminent threat, especially with the country's hosting of this year's ASEAN summit.

And in reaction to a reported decline in bookings for travel packages in the country, Teo said that there were still more foreign visitors coming in and, in fact, local and foreign tourists were teeming in Bohol's Panglao Island. The ASEAN meetings are also ongoing in the province until Saturday.

Related: Chinese tourists surge in PH after Duterte state visit

For his part, Tourism undersecretary Bong Benzon also said that Korean and Japanese tourists had made bookings for the coming months. He added that there was even a high-profile television production from Japan that was set to shoot in Cebu.

The DOT says prospects are so promising that they are even confident that tourist arrivals will exceed that of previous years'.

Teo added that she had sent a letter to the ambassador of Japan and Korea — and that she had been in talks with UN World Tourism Organization Sec. Gen. Taleb Rifai who had assured her that he would talk to countries and ask them to lift their travel advisories to the Philippines.

She said Rifai would also issue a statement that it would be safe to travel to Cebu and Bohol.

As of February, there had been 1.2 million foreign visitors to the country — 11% more than that of last year's. The government is confident that the number will continue to rise and may even go beyond the 6.5 million target for 2017.

CNN Philippines' Camille Abadicio and Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.