Tell It to SunStar: With Chinese visitors sneezing, PH’s tourism could catch cold

By Deputy Speaker Johnny T. Pimentel

AMID the coronavirus outbreak, the Philippines’ booming tourism industry will likely take a hit from the slump in the number of Chinese visitors in the months ahead.

The entire Philippine tourism sector-–airlines, resorts, hotels and restaurants, possibly even gaming-–is bound to be adversely affected by the sudden decline in the number of Chinese vacationers.

This may well be a case of Chinese travelers sneezing and the sector somewhat catching a cold.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) in particular and the government in general may have to find ways and take steps to help offset the temporary loss of Chinese holidaymakers.

All foreign sightseers create a huge demand for local goods and services and tourism overall contributes in a big way to the broader Philippine economy.

Due to the coronavirus flare-up, the heavily state-regulated association of travel agencies in China suspended all overseas tour groups and flight/hotel vacation packages for Chinese citizens, effective Jan. 27.

China is the Philippines’ second-largest supplier of foreign visitors after South Korea.

Chinese tourists accounted for 21.73 percent of the 7,484,115 foreigners that arrived in the Philippines from January to November 2019, according to the DOT.

The Philippines received a total of 1,626,300 visitors from China in the 11-month period, up 40.2 percent from 1,159,998 in the same period in 2018.

The number of Chinese travelers was just 159,048 shy of the 1,785,357 vacationers from South Korea in the 11-month period.

Besides Korea, China and the US, the Philippines’ top suppliers of foreign visitors are Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Malaysia.

The number of Chinese tourists has soared since 2016 on account of warmer government-to-government relations between Manila and Beijing under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The Philippines received 394,951 Chinese visitors in 2015; 675,663 in 2016; 968,447 in 2017; and 1,257,962 in 2018.

The London-based World Travel and Tourism Council said in a previous study that “travel and tourism was the largest sector in the Philippines in 2018 at 24.7 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, contributing $82 billion to the country’s economy.”