D.O.T. presses DFA on ways to lure Chinese tourists


THE Department of Tourism (DOT) scored the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for measures seen discouraging the arrival of more Chinese tourists in the Philippines.

In a letter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo dated June 8, 2023, DOT Secretary Ma. Esperanza Christina Garcia Frasco said, “This is to respectfully reiterate the Department of Tourism’s URGENT APPEAL for the Department of Foreign Affairs to LIFT the published daily quota of issuing only 100 visas per day per Philippine foreign service post in China.” (DOT’s emphasis)

She added: “While we understand from the initial reply conveyed to the DOT by DFA Assistant Secretary Henry S. Bensurtoz Jr. dated 30 March 2023 that there are instances where consular posts issue 200-250 visas per day, the continued website publication of an official policy limiting issuances to only 100 visas per day serves as a deterrent to potential visa applicants, and is unnecessarily prohibitive in terms of promoting the Philippines as a viable destination for Chinese tourists.”

She noted that as of June 5, 2023, only 90,000 Chinese tourists arrived in the Philippines, which has resulted in the Philippines “lag[ging] severely” behind its Asean neighbors in terms of visitor arrivals. As per data cited by DOT in its letter. Thailand topped the region in the number of tourists it received at 845,684 (January to April); followed by Vietnam at 398,891 (January to May); Singapore 215,290 (January to April);  Malaysia 178,150 (January to March); Cambodia 132,665 (January to March); and Indonesia 113,404 (January to March).

Family leave

As this developed, the DOT confirmed that Frasco will go on family leave for “7 working days,  on July 13-21, 2023.” Her chief of staff and Undersecretary for Legal and Special Concerns Mae Elaine T. Bathan has been designated officer-in-charge. The DOT chief has come under fire over a tourism video that appeared to promote foreign destinations. (See, “Despite fiasco, ad agency of DOT could still get paid,” in the BusinessMirror, July 4, 2023.)

On Tuesday, “Leave the Philippines” was trending on Twitter, as netizens noted the irony of Frasco vacationing overseas, even as her agency had been pushing its new “Love the Philippines” slogan.

Data from the DOT showed 2.85 million international travelers arrived in the Philippines from January to July 10, 2023. Of this number, foreign tourists accounted for 91.4 percent of total international arrivals, or 2.6 million. The rest, at 245,127, were overseas Filipinos visiting family and friends. Overseas Filipinos are described as Philippine Passport holders who are permanently residing abroad.

The international arrivals for the period was 69 percent of the 4.13-million  international arrivals in the first half of 2019, prior to the pandemic.

Pin e-visa rollout date

The same data showed that South Korea continued to lead as the top source market for international tourists at  703,933. It was followed by the United States at 523,772; Australia at 140,213; Japan at 135,314; and Canada 126,266.

Tourists from China accounted for 118,673; followed by Taiwan at 97,869; the United Kingdom at 81,380; Singapore 78,224; and Malaysia at 51,923. China used to be the second top source market for tourists in the Philippines, prior to the pandemic. China reopened its borders in January this year.

In her letter to Manalo, Frasco wanted to find out when the DFA will finally implement the electronic visa system meant to attract more Chinese and Indian tourists. She also reiterated that the personal appearance of individual visa applicants should be waived if their papers are coursed through accredited travel agents, and urged an online payment system for visa applications.