Beijing — Tourist arrivals from China is still expected to grow despite the issuance of a safety notice to its citizens in light of the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.
The travel advisory, which reminded Chinese citizens to exercise caution when traveling and avoid certain parts of Mindanao, is only meant to remind Chinese travelers of their safety and security, said Yan Xu, division chief of the international relations section of the China National Tourism Administration.
“To take our responsibility for the safety and security of Chinese outbound travelers, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and China National Tourism Administration jointly issued a safety notice which is valid until the end of this month,” said Yan.
Yan said the advisory will deter tourists from traveling to the Philippines but “only to a certain extent” and will not impact tourism cooperation between the two countries in the long run.
Department of Tourism (DOT) data for January to May 2017 show that a total of 2.9 million tourists have visited the Philippines. China accounts for 388,896 tourist arrivals, comprising 13.40% of total inbound traffic.
Last year, DOT recorded a total arrival of 675,700 Chinese tourists who visited the Philippines. Of this number, 244,925 tourists visited Central Visayas where the popular tourist destinations of Cebu and Bohol belong.
China is currently the third largest source of foreign tourist arrivals, following Korea and USA in the first and second spots.
Yan said what is happening in Marawi is an “individual incident” and “does not represent the overall safety condition” in the Philippines.
“We do hope that the Philippine government and the relevant department will take strong efforts to guarantee the safety and security of inbound travelers, including those from China,” Yan told visiting Philippine journalists during a press briefing.
Yan said the Philippines has become “one of the ‘hottest travel destinations’” for Chinese travelers especially during the summer season. It is one of the top 10 popular countries for Chinese tourists to visit, which include Korea and Singapore.
The Philippines became an approved travel destination for Chinese tourists in 1997.
Yan said most Chinese tourists visit the Philippines because of its natural wonders and hospitable people.
In an earlier interview, Consul General Shi Yong of the Chinese Consulate in Cebu described the top tourist destinations of Cebu and Bohol as “luminous pearls” with rich natural resources and natural wonders which tourists from China appreciate.
With more direct flights from mainland China to the Philippines, influx of tourists from the world’s largest source of outbound travelers given its nearly 1.4 billion population is expected to follow an upward trend.
China-based airlines have launched direct flights to Cebu, two of which are Xiamen Air (which flies Xiamen, Fuzhou and Quanzhou to Cebu) and China Eastern Airlines (which flies from Chengdu and Guangzhou to Cebu). More Chinese airlines — earlier reports said Sichuan Airlines and Air China — are expected to fly directly to Cebu within the year.
In last week’s press briefing in Beijing, Yan also announced that Hainan Airlines will fly to the Philippines before the end of the year. He did not provide specific details of this new development.
Asked if flag carrier Philippine Airlines will also fly to Hainan, Yan said it will depend on the current situation of the two markets.
“The possibility I just mentioned depends on the agreement between the aviation department of the two sides and the business initiatives of each individual airline companies. If the capacity can be guaranteed, I believe there could be more airline services that are willing to open new flights under the encouragement of the tourism departments of both sides,” he said.