Saudis, Americans are biggest spenders in PHL (Business Mirror (Philippines))

AS if to silence critics who have pointed out the apparent failure of the government to reach its annual foreign visitor arrival goals, Department of Tourism (DOT) officials boasted that under the Aquino administration, tourists are actually spending more and staying longer in the Philippines.

In his presentation on The State of Philippine tourism 2011-2014 at the Third Philippines Tourism Forum (PTF) at the SMX Convention Center on Friday, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. told participants that foreign visitors stayed an average of 10.6 nights in 2014 from 9.6 nights in 2013. In 2010, the first year of the Aquino administration, the average length of stay of tourists in the Philippines was just 8.2 nights.

He added that the foreign visitors also spent an average of $104 (P4,784) per day in the country in 2014, compared to $101 (P4,646) daily in 2013. This was a big improvement as well from 2010, when foreign visitors spent an average of $83.59 (P3,845) per day.

But Jimenez stressed that more foreign tourists are expected to visit the country with the massive increase in seat capacity available to Philippine carriers.

This developed as the DOT released its latest data on visitor receipts and tourist arrivals for July 2015. The data indicated that, among visitor markets, tourists from Saudi Arabia spent the most during their holiday in the Philippines at an average of 74,290.62 per person.

Visitors from the US registered the second biggest per-capita spend of P64,038.10. Other top markets with high per-capita expenditures were Australia at P53,497.05; Canada, P50,089.53; and South Korea, P46,269.67.

Earnings generated by the tourism industry from January to July 2015 grew by 3.08 percent to P130.22 billion, the same data showed.

For July 2015 alone, foreign visitors spent P19.2 billion, up a staggering 15.8 percent from the same month in July 2014.

Jimenez said spending patterns for July 2015 showed that a visitor had an average daily expenditure of P4,863.71, higher by 16.73 percent than the P4,166.70 average daily spent recorded in July 2014, while the average per-capita expenditure of visitors for the month in review was P45,329.81. He noted that average length of stay for July 2015 was 9.32 nights.

Taken as a whole, top spending markets in July 2015 alone were: South Korea at P5.52 billion; the US P4.18 billion; China, P1.33 billion; Japan, P1 billion; and Australia, P969 million.

In terms of visitor arrivals, Jimenez was pleased that visitors arrivals from China in the first seven months of 2015 was only negative 4.11. The Chinese market, which had been touted by the DOT as a high-growth market in the past, had grown sluggish due to diplomatic differences between the Philippines and China, as well as the Beijing government’s own crackdown on corruption and opulent lifestyles.

Still, visitors from China accounted for an 8.3-percent share of foreign tourists in the first seven months of 2015. On a month-on-month basis, visitors from mainland China jumped over 100 percent to 66,689 in July 2015, from 32,495 in June.

From January to July 2015, foreign visitor arrivals grew by 9.03 percent to 2.98 million. Including overseas Filipinos (Philippine passport holders permanently residing abroad and excludes overseas Filipino workers), total visitor arrivals in the first seven months of the year was up 8.7 percent to 3.1 million.

Top 12 visitor markets were South Korea at 762,277 (up 15.11 percent); followed by the US at 481,167 (up 6.98 percent); Japan, 278,884 (up 7.64 percent); China, 257,014 (down 4.11 percent); Australia, 137,242 (up 8.28 percent); Singapore, 107,402 (up 1.96 percent); Taiwan, 104,233 (up 25.91 percent); Canada, 93,403 (up 8.32 percent); the United Kingdom, 91,239 (up 12.3 percent); Malaysia, 90,947 (up 16.38 percent); Hong Kong, 73,446 (up 9.57 percent); and Germany, 43,308 (down 0.58 percent).

Jimenez said further improvements in visitor arrivals are expected as the Philippines has signed more aviation services agreements with other nations.

There has been a 150-percent increase in seat capacity due to 42 air talks done by the Aquino administration, he said on Friday before participants of the PTF. This raises total seat capacity of Philippine carriers to 60.43 million as against the 24.12 million under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

International air passenger traffic rose to 38.3 million in 2014, up 24 percent from 30.85 million at the beginning of the Aquino administration. In the first quarter of 2015, international air traffic was at 9.94 million. No data was available for the first quarter of 2014.

He added that the cruise tourism business has also expanded, enabling more foreign tourists to visit the country. This year, the DOT expects 66 cruise ships to make port calls in several destinations in the country, compared to only 10 in 2011. This will raise the number of cruise passengers to 34,161 this year, from 9,770 in 2011.

Among the priority ports for cruise lines are the Manila South Harbor, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Puerto Princesa and Boracay. Other destinations are Aparri, Cebu, Coron and El Nido in Palawan, Tagbilaran, Hundred Islands, La Union, Limasawa, Romblon, Siargao and Sibuyan.