The Philippines is now hoping more foreign tourists will return to Boracay island as global travel restrictions ease. "We are waiting for the Chinese tourists to visit Boracay," a local official said.
MANILA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Niko Reyes, his wife, and three boys have spent their four-day vacations on Boracay, a world-renowned island in the Philippines famous for its tropical beaches.
Reyes' wife Val posted on social media the pictures of the boys frolicking in the powdery white sand and shallow turquoise water, and enjoying the food on the island.
Reyes is among the over 84,000 foreign and local tourists that descended on the island since this January. "This is a good sign. Tourists are arriving even at the start of the year," Kim Pineda, an officer at the Malay Municipal Tourism Office, told Xinhua in a phone interview.
According to Pineda, over 1.75 million tourists arrived on the tropical island last year, among whom 132,687 were foreign tourists, mainly from South Korea, the United States, Australia, Britain, among others.
As a key economic driver, the tourism industry's contribution to the Philippines' gross domestic product (GDP) stood at 12.7 percent in 2019, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a severe blow to the tourism sector, slashing foreign arrivals and displacing almost 1.1 million service workers across the country.
The number of tourist arrival in Boracay in 2022 was still 275,007 short of the number recorded in 2019 before the pandemic, Pineda said.
The Philippines is now hoping more foreign tourists will return to the island as global travel restrictions ease.
Philippine tourism secretary Christina Frasco said in 2022 alone, over 2.65 million foreign tourists visited the Philippines since the Southeast Asian country eased restrictions on foreign travelers' entry, raking in roughly 3.82 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.
Frasco said the government's target for 2023 is to lure some 4.8 million international visitors, with Chinese tourist market remaining on its priority list.
In 2019, the Philippines received over 1.74 million Chinese tourists, an increase by 38.58 percent from 2018. Chinese tourists spent more than 2.3 billion U.S. dollars while vacationing in the country, official data showed.
"We are waiting for the Chinese tourists to visit Boracay," Pineda said.