National

Filipino tourism wave likely to continue, industry insiders say

Kyodo

The surge in Filipino visitors is likely to continue thanks to Japan’s eased visa rules, affordable travel cost and a rise in Filipinos’ financial stability, travel and tour executives said Friday.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, Japan received close to 350,000 visitors from the Philippines last year, up almost 30 percent from 2015, when it was nearly 269,000.

In 2014, when Japan started relaxing its visa policy for the Philippines to attract more tourists, it received over 184,000 visitors, 70 percent more than the 108,351 logged the year before.

“It’s growing because of the visa (relaxation). It’s easy to go to Japan right now. And as of now, even average income-earners can go to Japan because of low-cost carriers like Cebu Pacific and Jetstar,” said Shintaro Yoshida, operations manager at H.I.S. (Philippines) Travel Corp. Yoshida was interviewed at the 2017 Travel Tour Expo in Manila organized by the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.

Yasunari Kamimura of Universal Holidays Inc. agreed, citing additional factors such as the Japanese government’s massive tourism promotions and a common desire in the Philippines to visit Japan. “But most especially, it’s the Filipinos’ financial stability, their buying power now,” he added. “And they are not just satisfied with spending more for some leisure. Japan is now their target.”

Kazumichi Araki of the Manila office of All Nippon Airways said that “repeaters” — those who go to Japan more than once a year — “are also getting bigger” because of their desire to see other spots in the country.

Kamimura said that aside from trying the package tours offered by travel agencies like UHI, some Filipinos book their own flights and accommodations. “We call them the free, independent tourists. That market is really growing, so we need to be agile,” he said.

Acknowledging the growing number of outbound Filipino tourists, Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said she is encouraging Filipinos to travel domestically before exploring foreign destinations. “It’s better to travel in our country first,” she said, adding that to make up for the outbound travelers, she invites foreign tourists to visit the Philippines whenever she goes abroad.

Close to 6 million foreign tourists visited the Philippines last year, up more than 11 percent from 2015, with South Koreans topping the list.

Marlene Jante, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association, said “both inbound and outbound (tourists) help the government in generating income,” noting that every Filipino who travels abroad pays the Philippine travel tax.