MANILA -- The Philippines has set a record-breaking 7.1 million international tourist arrivals in 2018, the Department of Tourism (DOT) reported Thursday.
Data from the DOT showed that at least 7,127,168 foreign tourists visited the country, the "highest ever number" in the Philippines' tourism industry, surpassing the 6,620,908 arrivals in 2017 by 7.68 percent.
“This is a time that celebrates the 7.1 million tourist arrival count -- the highest ever in our country’s history, while at the same time championing the cause of an economic activity that can support and transform lives of common Filipinos," Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement
The agency boasts that the country's tourism growth rate has outdone the world average tourism growth and average growth for Asia and the Pacific of 6 percent as identified by the United Nations World Tourism Organization's World Tourism Barometer.
Consistent as the country's top source market is South Korea with 1,587,959, followed by China with 1,255,258, and the United States that recorded 1,034,396 arrivals.
Meanwhile, Japan and Australia wound up the top five markets with 631,801, and 279,821 arrivals, respectively.
Trailing behind are Taiwan with 240,842; Canada at 226,429; United Kingdom with 201,039; Singapore with 171,795; Malaysia with 145,242; India with 121,124; and Hong Kong with 117,984.
December 2018 registered 687,726 foreign tourist arrivals second best to the month of January 2018 at 732,506 and 12.12 percent higher compared to 2017.
While the arrivals observed growth, the tally lagged behind the agency's initial 7.4-million target. Earlier, Romulo-Puyat projected the Philippines may not meet its 7.4 million goal given the six-month shutdown of Boracay, one of the Philippines' top destinations.
Boracay receives an average 80,000 tourists every month meaning it lost around 480,000 due to the closure.
Despite this, she still described the closure as a "blessing in disguise."
“The challenging act of closing down Boracay -- a flagship destination, the country’s top sun-and-beach destination has evidently become a blessing in disguise for secondary tourism spots to have a share of the lime light and attention they truly deserve," she said.
"It shows that turning off the faucet when the water is unclear can bring a fresher flow in just an unexpected period of time. With this, we have also seen the transition from a mass tourism perspective shifting into high-value tourism direction that prioritizes quality over mere quantity,” she added. (PNA)