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DOT focuses on air connectivity improvement to double Chinese arrivals

The Department of Tourism (DOT) is exerting effort to improve the country's air connectivity as it targets to increase Chinese tourist arrivals by 1.5 million this year after coming close to its one million mark in 2017.

“This year, we are aiming higher and we are targeting 1.5 million,” DOT Secretary Wanda Teo said on Friday.

The year 2017 recorded a total of 968,447 Chinese nationals visiting the country overtaking the Americans at the second spot of the top tourism source markets.

Arrivals almost doubled with 43.33 percent growth from the previous year’s 675,663.

During the Chinese New Year countdown in Manila last week, China Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua also made a vow to "double the figure" as he took note of the improving relations between the two countries despite territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

For the first month of 2018, Chinese arrivals registered 111,344 indicating a 29.55 percent increase from the same period last year.

DOT-Shanghai Tourism Attaché Ireneo Reyes said that to get more Chinese tourists, the priority would be the accessibility.

“Starting this year, a total of 5,180 seats per month will be added with special charter flights for the Chinese New Year celebration,” he said.

Additional 1,800 seats from the direct flights to Cebu; 3,183 to Kalibo; and 197 to Puerto Princesa are expected to attract more Chinese tourists this year.

For the Chinese New Year period, a total of 2,937 seats are opened for the month of February from different Chinese cities including Guangzhou, Xiamen, Ningbo, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, and Tianjin.

“These direct and charter flights provide convenience that greatly affects tourist experience and influences potential tourist's decision in choosing a destination," DOT-Beijing Tourism Attaché Tomasito Umali said.

At the moment, he reported there are 11 airlines servicing direct, regular and charter, routes for 17 Chinese cities.

Aside from better air connectivity, DOT is also focused on cruise tourism as more Chinese cruise companies and charterers include one or two of the country’s 7,641 islands in their cruise line itineraries.

The DOT said cruise ships SuperStar Virgo and Genting World Dream paved the way last year while Costa Cruise Atlantis will start this month for a year-round deployment with an estimated 48,420 guest capacity.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean Voyager and Ovation, with 3,500 passenger capacity each, will be visiting the Philippine shores in June and July.

Local Chinese cruise lines including Diamond Exquisites and Taishan Cruise are also expected to visit the country this year.

“We are also preparing more choices for the Chinese market. We are now pushing Puerto Princesa, Davao, and other destinations,” Teo said.

Boracay, Cebu, and Bohol were the favorite destinations of the Chinese travelers last year according to the DOT Annual Visitor Sample Survey 2017.

On the other hand, sightseeing, shopping, and nature and adventure were the usual activities while holiday was the top purpose of visit.

According to the agency, growth in spending power and global connectivity in lower-tier Chinese cities have introduced first time travelers who spent almost USD50 per day for an average length of stay of 6.24 nights last year.

To further widen network, the DOT offices in Beijing and Shanghai are now planning to go digital and work with key opinion leader groups and online travel agencies as well as advertise in WeChat, Weibo and Dian Pin, the popular social media and service providers in China.

In an update, DOT stressed that visa-upon-arrival policy for Chinese tour groups and the visa-free policy for Chinese nationals who hold valid visas to the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada and Schengen states remain in order to achieve the Chinese market target this year.

Joyce Ann L. Rocamora / PNA