Seoul, South Korea: The Philippines can draw in more tourists from South Korea if more hotels will be built, particularly in the two favorite destinations of Koreans — Cebu and Boracay.
South Korea remains the biggest source of tourists for the Philippines. In 2015, Korean visitors made up 25 percent of the total number of tourists who visited the country — 1.3 million. This figure is likely to be surpassed this year since 481,596 Koreans have visited the Philippines for the first four months of 2016, accounting for 23.22 percent of the total arrivals. The United States is a far second, with 303,951 Americans visiting the Philippines in the same period, or 14.66 percent of the total.
South Korea is also the top spending market for April 2016 at P5.30 billion. It is followed by the US with P3.13 billion, Japan with P1.11 billion and Australia P1.10 billion. Canada is fifth with P800 million.
Sun-Ok Yong, Deputy General Manager of HanaTour, the biggest tour operator in Korea, said many more Koreans would visit the Philippines if there are more hotel rooms to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Yong said the lack of hotel rooms is one of the reasons why his company cannot take more tourists to the Philippines.
He particularly cited Cebu and Boracay, the top destinations of South Koreans. Although new hotels have been built in these places, Yong said the number of tourists who visit these two destinations continues to grow, thus the need for more accommodation.
Yong said they sometimes have to divert their clients to Thailand when they cannot book hotel rooms in these two areas.
Aside from the lack of hotel rooms, Yong said the other problem that hinders the influx of more Korean tourists to the Philippines is the need for bigger airports that can accommodate more flights.
No peak month
Maricon Ebron, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of the Tourism Promotions Board, an agency attached to the Department of Tourism, said the Korean market has so burgeoned that Korean tourists fly into the country all year round.
Ebron, who led the Philippine delegation to the 31st Korea World Travel Fair held in Seoul from June 8 to 13, said there is no longer any peak month for Korean visitors. In the past years, she said more Koreans would visit the Philippines in September but now, they fly in every month in droves. She said the Koreans’ favorites destinations are Cebu, Boracay, Palawan and Bohol.
The TPB official said they aim to develop new programs to lure more Korean tourists such as offering dive safaris, golf packages and incentives for couples who will revisit their honeymoon destination in the Philippines.
“We will remain aggressive this year. We want to continue our partnership and get more travelers,” she said.
The former tourism attaché to Korea said this will be done by offering more group packages, attracting women’s groups, joining diving and resort travel shows, trade and consumer exhibits, and through the Philippines-Korea world travel fair.
Ebron, who ended her term as Tourism attaché in May, noted that when she started her tour of duty in Korea in 2007, the number of Korean tourists was 653,310, 18.7 percent of the total arrivals. She said 2012 was the banner year when more than one million Koreans visited the Philippines.
“I’m confident that we will surpass our original target of 1.4 million arrivals this year,” Ebron said.