Western Visayas Eyes 3M Tourists

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo - Western Visayas is raring to meet its target of attracting 3 million tourists this year, officials of the Department of Tourism Region 6 office (DOT-6) revealed yesterday.

DOT-6 Regional Director Helen Catalbas said the ambitious target set by her office is quite a tall order but the superb international reviews of the country's beaches is expected to give tourism in this region a boost.

Partial tourist arrivals for 2012 has reached 2,100,013 in the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental.

Of the 2.1 million tourists in the region, approximately 1.2 million tourists flocked to the popular beach destination of Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan.

For 2012, South Korea topped the Western Visayas tourism market with a total of 184,992 visitors.

In the top five were Taiwan with 93,407 tourists; China with 84,186 tourists; United States of America with 20,603 tourists; and Australia 15, 237 tourists.

Rounding up the top 10 regional visitors were the 14,810 from Russia; 8,841 from Japan; 8,729 from United Kingdom; 8,098 from Germany; and 7,591 from Hong Kong.

Catalbas said that there is a need to strengthen the region's share of the South Korean visitors.

Catalbas also expressed optimism that the international flights at the Iloilo Airport will further help reach the 3 million target.

She said there's a possibility that visitors from other countries can go directly to Iloilo via Hong Kong and Singapore.

Boracay in Caticlan, Aklan - a favorite getaway spot for locals, foreigners, and even celebrities, ranked first among the ''top options for seeking out relaxation and tranquility,'' a survey conducted by Agoda.com, a prime hotel booking site. It bested other popular destinations such as Bali, Indonesia and Koh Samui, Thailand.

A separate survey for ''top 10 cities for nightlife'' of the same site also put Boracay in third place.

Of course, the Department of Tourism is pleased with these citations, which may well have been bolstered through its extensive campaign ''It's More Fun In The Philippines'' launched last year. (With a report from Rowena Joy A. Sanchez)