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Hong Kong renews black travel alert, but HK tourists keep coming

Despite an unfavorable travel alert dating back to 2010, tourists from Hong Kong have continued to flock to the Philippines. On Thursday, Hong Kong reiterated its black outbound travel alert (OTA) over the Philippines, as it maintained its warning of possible terrorist attacks. In its OTA updated Jan. 24, the Hong Kong Security Bureau also cited the August 23, 2010 hostage-taking incident that killed eight Hong Kong tourists in Manila. But this was not before the Department of Tourism this week tagged Hong Kong residents as among the top visitors to the Philippines. "Some overseas administrations had noted the risk on possible terrorist attacks, including places frequented by foreigners, such as large shopping malls and convention centers," it said. It advised its residents to register their travel itineraries and contact details to receive updates on OTA and related information before departing Hong Kong. "Before departing Hong Kong, residents may register via ROTI their travel itineraries and contact details to receive updates on OTA and related information. The Immigration Department may contact and assist the registrants in an emergency," it said. OTA status As of Thursday noon, only the Philippines and Syria fall under the black OTA, which advises residents to "avoid all travel." Under the red OTA, which calls for adjustments of travel plans and avoiding of non-essential travel, are Egypt and Lebanon. In the amber OTA, which calls for monitoring one's situation and exercising caution, are Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Fukushima (Japan), Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Tunisia, and Turkey. Hong Kong initially imposed a black OTA on the Philippines after the Aug. 23, 2010 hostage-taking incident in Manila. In that incident, dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza took a busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage to demand his reinstatement. However, Mendoza was killed along with eight of the hostages during a botched rescue operation. 4.2M tourists in 2012 However, the latest reiteration of the black travel advisory came a day after the Department of Tourism said tourist arrivals breached the four-million mark in 2012. The DOT said the Philippines welcomed 4,272,811 foreign visitors in 2012, a 9.07-percent increase from 3,917,454 in 2011. Visitors from Hong Kong ranked ninth in terms of visitor arrivals with 118,666 (2.78 percent) last year. Hong Kong's OTA system helps its residents understand the "risk or threat to personal safety" in 86 countries that are popular travel destinations. – VVP/HS, GMA News
Tags: hongkong, travel