MANILA -- Tourist arrivals in the first seven months of the year increased by 9.74 percent to 4.3 million visitors compared to 3.92 million in the same period last year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported Thursday.

In July alone, visitors tallied 601,322, posting a growth rate of 5.86 percent from the 568,035 recorded in July 2017. This, despite the low-travel season and the temporary closure of Boracay, a major tourist draw for the Philippines.

Data from DOT-Statistics, Economic Analysis and Information Management Division (SEAIMD) show that South Korea remains the country’s top source market, followed by China, the United States, Japan, and Australia.

In data obtained by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), South Koreans totaled 937,227 from January to July 2018. Chinese nationals came in second with 764,094 tourists. China remains a fast-growing market with a 40.01 percent growth rate compared to its 545,725 tourists last year.

On the other hand, visitors from the US and Japan reached 649,496 and 366,649, respectively. Australia, the fifth source market of the country, had a total of 161,077 tourists for the same period.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette-Romulo Puyat described the steady increase as a positive reflection of the "brighter" future of the Philippine tourism industry.

“With the challenges and hurdles the industry is facing, maintaining the positive trajectory of visitor arrivals is not an easy feat, but the industry has kept itself afloat," Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.

"We only have our stakeholders and government partners to thank. But of course, this will not be possible without the dedicated men and women of the DOT," she added.

She expressed optimism the agency would reach the government's target of 7.4 million arrivals for 2018.

"With the roll-out of a comprehensive branding campaign in the coming months and the scheduled reopening of a better Boracay on Oct. 26, we are optimistic that we will hit, or better yet, surpass our target of 7.4 million for 2018," she said. (PNA)