Some 1.3 million foreign tourists have visited the Philippines so far this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Wednesday.
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco made the announcement when her agency sought the approval of DOT's proposed P3.2-billion budget for 2023 before the House appropriations panel.
Frasco said there are 1,352,904 foreign tourists who visited the country as of August 28, 2022 -- a big increase compared to last year's 163,879.
This means that the 1.3 million foreign visitor arrival this year is on track to at least match the pre-pandemic figure of 1.48 million.
The Americans topped the list of foreign tourists who paid a visit to the Philippines with 257,508, followed by South Koreans with 165,167, Australians with 59,202, Canadians with 54,912, and British with 52,782.
The number of domestic tourists for the year 2021, on the other hand, reached 37 million, an increase from 26 million in 2020.
These numbers of domestic tourists, however, were still a mile away from the 122 million figure posted in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Tourism employment also showed improvement in 2021, reaching 4.9 million. This was higher than the 4.7 million in 2020.
The 4.9 million level in 2021, however, is lower than the 5.5 million employed in the tourism sector in 2019.
Frasco also outlined the seven-point agenda of the DOT for 2023, which are:
- improving tourism infrastructure and accessibility
- cohesive and comprehensive digitalization and connectivity
- enhancement of overall tourist experience
- equalization of tourism product development and promotion
- diversification of portfolio through multidimensional tourism
- maximization of domestic tourism and
- strengthening tourism governance through close collaboration with LGUs and stakeholders
House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan then asked Frasco the amount of the 2023 budget that the DOT asked the Department of Budget and Management as against the budget granted to them.
Frasco said that the agency requested for P12 billion but was only given P3.2 billion.
This did not sit well with Libanan.
"That is what I am saying, Mr. Chair. No matter how polished our soldier is, sa giyera, itak lang ang ibinibigay natin eh ang kalaban nila bazooka," Libanan said.
(With that budget, it is as if we are arming our soldiers with axes when their opponents are armed with bazookas.) —KBK, GMA News