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International visitor arrivals in the Philippines climbed 15.24 percent in 2019 to hit an all-time high of 8.26 million from 7.16 million arrivals in 2018, data from the Department of Tourism show.

The DOT said all months, except January, registered double-digit growth rates, with August posting the highest increase of 27.54 percent and December recording the highest volume of 776,798.

“This heralds a new milestone in the country’s tourism history, breaching the eight millionth mark. Without a doubt, our convergence programs with other government agencies, particularly in improving access as well as product development and marketing initiatives with local government and private sectors have greatly paid off. These gains we hope to sustain even as we face global challenges,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.

The DOT launched in 2019 its refreshed branding campaign, continuing the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan but repurposing it to advocate for sustainable tourism. The local launch was held at the National Museum of Natural History while the international event was in Berlin during the Internationale Tourismus-Börse.

To complement the new direction towards sustainable tourism, the DOT launched a movement called “Save Our Spots” to call for each individual to be a responsible tourist and encouraging the same behavior towards others to preserve the country’s natural and man-made wonders.

The Philippine tourism industry also received a number of international awards and recognitions in 2019 such as the World’s Leading Dive Destination at the 2019 World Travel Awards, Asia’s Leading Tourism Board at the 2019 World Travel Awards and Excellent Partner Award (for Sustainable Efforts in Boracay, among others).

“This is a high point for Philippine tourism as it depicts our solidarity and commitment to make tourism work and prove its full potential as a sustainable and inclusive economic activity. The record-breaking numbers solidify the effectiveness of the Tourism Act of 2009, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2019," Puyat said.

Korea remained the top source market with a total of 1.98 million arrivals, for a 22.48-percent increase last year. The ace spot has been well-guarded since 2010.

China followed closely with 1.74 million, boasting of a 38.58-percent growth while the US was third with 1.06 million visitors for a 2.90-percent increase.

Japan was fourth at 682,788 arrivals, with an 8.07 percent growth followed by Taiwan reporting an equally impressive double-digit increase of 35.01 percent for 327,273 arrivals.

Rounding up the top 12 visitor markets with their volumes and respective growth rates are Australia with 286,170 (2.27 percent), Canada with 238,850 ((5.48 percent), the United Kingdom with 209,206 (4.06 percent), Singapore with 158,595 arrivals (-7.68 percent), Malaysia with 139,882 (-3.69 percent), India with 134,963 (11.43 percent) and Germany with 103,756 (12.66 percent).

The country remains safe as precautionary measures are in place to contain the deadly 2019-novel coronavirus, according to the DOT and the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) said Tuesday.

"The DOT and the TCP, which represents the country's tourism stakeholders, assure the public, especially our foreign and domestic tourists, that the Philippines remains a safe destination for travel," the joint statement reads.

"All preventive and precautionary measures are being put in place by the national government to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) including the temporary entry ban for tourists coming from China, its Special Administrative Regions (SARs), Hong Kong and Macau, Taiwan, and the 14-day quarantine for Filipinos coming from the said places," they said.

To mitigate the economic impact of the nCoV crisis, the tourism sector agreed to roll out a program offering more value-added tour packages, discounted accommodation rates and marked-down prices for domestic flights.

The DOT, for its part, said it will intensify its marketing and promotions domestically and internationally in key markets such as South Korea, the United States and Japan, and opportunity and emerging markets that cover Western Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

"In these challenging times, the tourism sector spanning airlines, hotels and tour operators, have banded together for the continued growth of the industry," the statement reads.

"It is because of this support from both the public and private sector that we reiterate that the Philippines remains a vast, diverse and most importantly, safe destination for international and domestic travelers alike," it said.

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