The Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) recorded a slight increase in tourist arrivals in Negros Occidental last year.

Partial data from PTO showed that almost 727,000 foreign and domestic tourists last year visited the province, excluding Bacolod City. This is about two percent higher than the 712,083 visitors in 2015.

Of the arrivals, domestic tourists comprised the bulk at 694,134 while foreigners numbered 18,120 and overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and balikbayans reached 14,586.

Cristine Mansinares, provincial supervising tourism operations officer, said the data released Friday was still partial as about 20 percent of the local government units (LGUs) in the province would submit their respective reports next week yet.

Thus, the initial two percent increase is still expected to rise and the province could still reach its 2016 target increase of 10 percent, Mansinares said.

In terms of tourism receipts, or the value spent by tourists during their stay in the province, PTO has yet to finalize the reports.

“The increase in tourist arrivals is attributed to the additional rooms opened by different tourism establishments and accommodation facilities as well as to the strong promotional efforts made by the provincial government and other industry stakeholders,” Mansinares added.

Aside from beaches and resorts, an increasing number of tourists doing benchmarking in the province in terms of farm tourism has been observed.

Sipalay City catered to the highest number of tourists last year, at more than 100,000.

Among the foreign arrivals, those from the United States of America topped the list with 1,622, followed by Australia, 699; Canada, 698; Germany, 670; and Switzerland, 561.

Other countries in the top 10 are France with 513; Belgium, 461; Singapore, 441; Austria, 439; and Mexico, 404.

“Improvements in the tourism industry have helped boost the province’s economy through additional income to local enterprises and livelihood support to communities, and has promoted more investments," Mansinares said.

This year, the province targets a 15-percent increase in tourist arrivals, she added.

For Bacolod City alone, data obtained by Sun.Star Bacolod earlier showed that tourist arrivals from January to November 2016 reached to 516,272.

The figure, which includes 470,799 domestic and 45,473 foreign tourists, translates to about P10 billion in tourist receipts.

Also, topping the list of foreign tourists in Bacolod were Americans, at 6,636.