South Korea retains top spot as the country’s main source of international visitors.
In its yearend report, the Department of Tourism (DOT) says the Philippines welcomed a total of 5,450,557 international visitors from January 1 to December 31, 2023, of which 91.80% or the bulk of international arrivals recorded at 5,003,475 were foreigners. The remaining 8.20% or 447,082 were overseas Filipinos.
The new record is around 650,000 higher than its target of 4.8 million international visitors projected to visit the country for the entire year.
South Korea retains its top spot as the country’s main source of international visitors, getting 26.41% of the pie which delivered 1,439,336 foreign tourists. It was followed by the United States with 903,299 tourists (16.57%) visiting the country; then Japan with 305,580 (5.61%); Australia with 266,551 (4.89%); and China with 263,836 (4.84%).
Other foreigners who visited the country from other top source markets after China were from Canada, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Surge in international tourism receipts
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said the country’s local tourism industry is recovering faster than expected.
The country’s international tourism receipts was higher by 124.87% compared with the P214.58 billion from the same period in 2022. In 2019 or pre-pandemic period, the DOT recorded P482.15 billion in international tourism receipts.
The Philippines has also reached an estimated 66% recovery rate for its all-time high international visitor arrivals achieved in 2019.
By 2024, the DOT is targeting 7.7 million international visitor arrivals.
Secretary Frasco said, “Since we took office, we have set our goals for the industry not only in terms of international visitor arrivals but most importantly, the number of Filipinos and their families who will benefit from the opportunities generated by our constant and continuous efforts to make the industry prosper.”
In May 2023, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) 2023 to 2028, the administration’s blueprint and development framework for the tourism industry, officials said Tuesday. It contains the DOT’s seven strategic goals formulated under the helm of Secretary Frasco, which are the improvement of tourism infrastructure and accessibility; cohesive and comprehensive digitalization and connectivity; enhancement of overall tourist experience; equalization of tourism product development and promotion; diversification of the tourism portfolio through multidimensional tourism; maximization of domestic and international tourism; and strengthening tourism governance through close collaborations with national and local government units and stakeholders.
Flagship projects and programs in 2023
The DOT successfully turned over 10 Tourist Rest Areas (TRAs) in strategic locations nationwide, with 18 more to be built this 2024. A flagship program of the Marcos Administration, the TRAs are equipped with facilities such as work and charging stations, information, and pasalubong centers, and clean restrooms and showers, a lounge area, and a breastfeeding room.
In less than two years of office, the DOT was able to complete 158 kilometers of roads leading to tourism destinations across the country in a bid to increase connectivity in tourist destinations through its Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP) in collaboration with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
To further provide convenience to tourists in terms of mobility while discovering destinations around the Philippine capital, two Hop-On Hop-Off (HOHO) Travel by The Hubs were also inaugurated in the cities of Manila and Makati. Four additional hubs are also planned to be launched with six local LGUs in Metro Manila as partners.
The DOT is also expanding the country’s cruise tourism portfolio by receiving a total of 125 cruise calls in 2023.
The DOT also launched the country’s first Tourist Assistance Call Center, a centralized multi-platform assistance center that serves as a hotline and one-stop shop for local and foreign tourists. Since its launching in October, a total of 2,497 transactions have been made as of December 31, 2023.
An aggregate of 33,435 app downloads have also been recorded since the launching of the integrated Travel Philippines App, a project of the DOT and its marketing arm, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines.
Meanwhile, 21,195 tourism-related jobs were also offered at the Trabaho, Turismo, Asenso Job Fairs–Trabaho Turismo Asenso Philippine Tourism Job Fairs, a collaborative effort by the DOT and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
With the Philippines is known as one of the most hospitable countries in the world, 126,343 tourism workers were trained for the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence (FBSE) as of December 31, 2023, surpassing the initial 100,000 set by no less than the tourism chief.
Initiated by the DOT, the FBSE training program is rooted in the 7M’s of core values that Filipinos are widely known for: Malikhain, Makatao, Makakalikasan, Makabansa, Masayahin, May Bayanihan, and May Pag-asa, and designed to promote service excellence in all tourism-related establishments.
Generating more sales leads
Abundant tourism revenue from international and local business-to-business and promotional events also concluded in 2023 for the Philippine tourism industry.
An estimated P6.317 billion total sales leads have been delivered through the DOT’s attached agency, Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) Philippines, which has been actively carrying out marketing and promotions, mounting of international and domestic travel fairs, and participating in major expos locally and abroad.
Reintroducing The Philippines to the world, Secretary Frasco was elected Vice President of the 25th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a prestigious global position last held by the country more than two decades ago. The Philippines was also elected Chair of the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific allowing the country to host the Joint Regional Meetings of the Committee for East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia in Cebu in 2024.
Consistent top-of-mind destination
The past year for the tourism industry may have been a mix of challenges and successes, but as recognized by preeminent award-giving bodies and publications, the Philippines remains a top-of-mind destination among travelers.
This was signified by the six major accolades from the World Travel Awards (WTA) received by the country as 2023 World’s Leading Dive Destination, World’s Leading Beach Destination, the World’s Leading City Destination for Manila as well as Asia’s Best Cruise Destination, and Asia’s Leading Dive Destination. For the first time, the Philippines also earned the spotlight on its inaugural win for the Global Tourism Resilience Award for demonstrating “global leadership, pioneering vision, and innovation to overcome critical challenges and adversity.”
The Philippines also garnered more than 15 travel and tourism honors from prestigious award-giving bodies in the categories including diving, beach, cruise, culinary, retirement, and Muslim-friendly tourism, “a testament that the Philippines is indeed an emerging tourism powerhouse.” according to Secretary Frasco.