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Chinese tourists seen to help tourism establishments recover
TO fully recover from the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Philippines’ tourism sector needs to bring in some 1.7 million visitors from China every year, Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo, House tourism committee vice-chairperson, said on Thursday.
“Assuming the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over later this year or in early 2023, we have to draw in on an annual basis at least the same volume of Chinese tourists that we received in 2019,” Rillo said.
“We need Chinese visitors to help our tourism enterprises recover so that they can gainfully reemploy tens of thousands of Filipinos who were laid off at the height of the pandemic,” Rillo said.
“Prior to the pandemic in 2019 alone our rough estimate is that the Philippines generated $2 billion in tourism receipts from Chinese visitors,” Rillo said.
Rillo made the statement shortly after China’s embassy in Manila categorically denied reports that Beijing had blacklisted the Philippines as a tourist destination for Chinese travelers due to concerns over their safety.
Criminal syndicates, mostly run by fugitives from China, have been known to target Chinese citizens in the Philippines. The gangs have been linked to kidnapping, sex trafficking, extortion, and corruption around Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) that are populated by Chinese workers.
“We welcome the Chinese embassy’s clarification that the Philippines has not been blacklisted, because we are counting on Chinese visitors to help our battered tourism establishments recover in the months ahead,” Rillo said.
Citing Department of Tourism (DoT) statistics, Rillo said China was the Philippines’ fastest-growing supplier of foreign visitors prior to the pandemic.
Before the pandemic struck, the Philippines received a total of 1,743,309 visitors from China, up 38.58 percent from 1,257,962 in 2018.
Chinese nationals accounted for 21.10 percent of the 8,260,913 foreigners that visited the Philippines in 2019.
Besides China, the Philippines’ top suppliers of foreign visitors in 2019 were Korea (1,989,322); the United States (1,064,440); Japan (682,788); and Taiwan (327,273).
The Philippines received 394,951 Chinese visitors in 2015; 675,663 in 2016; and 968,447 in 2017.
In 2020, only 170,432 Chinese tourists arrived in the Philippines, amid international air travel restrictions after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March that year.
In 2021, the number of Chinese visitors that arrived in the Philippines further dropped to 9,674.
From January to September this year, the number of Chinese tourists increased to 22,236.
Last month, the WHO said the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is “in sight.”
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press conference.