Korean tourists to reach 650,000 this year

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Around 650,000 Korean tourists, many of them honeymooners and students, are expected to visit the different destinations in the Philippines this year, the Department of Tourism said.

Maricon Basco Ebron, who heads the department’s office in Korea, said the figure would be about 14 percent higher than the 572,133 Koreans who traveled to the Philippines last year.

Korea replaced the United States as the largest tourism market of the Philippines and accounted for a fifth of all international visitors in the country in 2006.

Ebron said arrivals were on track toward meeting the 2007 target, as data show that visitors from Korea increased 18.8 percent to 171,716 in the first quarter of the year from 144,768 a year ago.

Arrivals from Korea represented 21.7 percent of the total international arrivals of 790,888 in the January-March period. The United States accounted for 19.8 percent.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano said the bulk of foreign tourists came from Korea, US, Japan and China because of the Philippines’ competitive advantage in such markets.

“Korea, Japan and certain parts of China have the Philippines as their nearest tropical neighbor, while the United States has an increasing number of Filipino-Americans visiting the country regularly,” he said.

“The biggest increase in actual numbers at 26,948 came from Korea, indicating that our promotional campaign is hitting our specific target market squarely,” Durano said.

Durano was referring to the department’s four priority segments of Korea’s 11.6 million outbound market, composed of students, holiday seekers, honeymooners, and special interest groups such as golfers, scuba divers and other sports buffs.

“The first quarter, mostly comprising winter and partly spring, is really the best time for Koreans to travel abroad to escape the very cold weather. That is why we intensify our campaign before and during this period targeting our four priority market segments. And it certainly shows that our choice of media for the campaign is correct, particularly the cable TV programs and magazines that cater to our target market,” he said.