Foreign tourist arrivals in the Philippines are steadily rising each year, but not enough or even close to match those of our Asian neighbors.
The Philippines remains outside the top 10 tourist destinations in Asia, with China emerging as the most favored tourism site with 62.9 million visitors in 2018. Thailand follows with 38.3 million foreign tourists in the same year, while Japan ranks third with 31.2 million. Vietnam is in eighth place with 15.5 million foreign visitors, while Singapore rounds the top 10 Asian destinations with 14.7 million.
The Philippines clearly has a lot of catching up to do with its foreign visitor arrivals of 7.1 million in 2018. It is poised to breach the 8-millionth mark this year after international visitor arrivals rose 15 percent in the first 10 months to a record 6.8 million from 5.91 million a year ago on the back of strong tourism traffic from Korea and China. The 10-month figure was just 1.4 million short of the full-year target of 8.2 million international visitor arrivals in 2019.
The Philippines could soon be among the top 10 destinations in Asia amid government's efforts to modernize major airports and seaports, and build more roads that will make major tourist spots more accessible to foreign visitors. The government has little choice but to promote local tourism sites and improve the infrastructure network. Tourism is one industry that directly creates jobs and makes a major impact in the countryside.
The Department of Tourism noted that tourism in 2018 was responsible for 5.4 million jobs, contributing 12.7 percent or P2.2 trillion to the country’s gross domestic product. Foreign tourism receipts in 2017, according to latest available data, reached $6.6 billion from $5.57 billion in the previous year.
A sharp increase in the number of foreign visitor arrivals will mean the construction of more hotels and resorts, especially those in rural areas, to accommodate the guests. More foreign tourists will force the government to upgrade the country's airports and seaports, and the higher number will eventually trickle down to the local community.
With the right promotion and a supportive infrastructure network, tourism is one sustainable industry that can contribute to the reduction of poverty incidence in the Philippines.