PH may not hit 7.4-M yearend tourist target due to Boracay closure — DOT

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13) — The country may not hit its yearend target of 7.4 million tourist arrivals for 2018, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Thursday.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said this would be mainly due to the six-month closure of Boracay.

Puyat said the visitor cap set in Boracay affected the overall national tourist numbers. She added tourist arrivals might only reach 7.2 million by the end of the year.

"Boracay (has) 19,250 (persons) per day carrying capacity. So, definitely if you have carrying capacity, it will affect tourists arrivals," the secretary said.

"But we are promoting alternative tourist destinations para hindi lang Boracay ang alam nilang puntahan (so that it's not only Boracay that they're targeting to visit)," Puyat said.

Since its reopening in October, only 19,000 visitors are allowed to enter the island per day.

Despite this, Puyat said the number of foreign visitors for 2018 still surpassed that of last year.

The island officially reopened its doors to the public on October 26 after a six-month rehabilitation ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

With the imposed visitor limit on the island, the DOT has been promoting alternative tourist destinations such as Siquijor, Cebu and Siargao.

In November, the inter-agency task force-- comprised of tourism and environment officials-announced it will also conduct a rehabilitation plan for El Nido, Palawan.

Chinese tourist surge in 2019?

Meanwhile, the DOT said it expects China to remain as the fastest growing source of tourists in 2019.

DOT said Chinese tourist arrivals jumped by 30 percent in 2018 from over a million arrivals last year.

But contrary to the Bureau of Immigration's claims, DOT bared only 1 percent of Chinese tourists visit the Philippines for gambling activities.

"The priority product that we indicated is entertainment. What we are pushing for is integrated tourism complexes," said DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr.

"We have to make the distinction between those who come here solely for that purpose and those who come here mainly for leisure shopping, and then go to these facility as an option," Bengzon said.

Puyat added the country's renewed ties with China helped attract the tourists.

The Labor Department in November revealed there has been an influx of tourists, particularly Chinese nationals, who ended up as workers in the country.

READ: 'Upward trend' in Chinese workers in PH - Labor Department

For 2018, DOT said South Koreans remain as the top visitors of the country. They were followed by Chinese and American nationals, respectively.