A TOURISM consultant has expressed optimism that the Philippines would be able to surpass its target of 6.5 million foreign tourists this year given the country’s successful hosting of Miss Universe and the warming relations between the Philippines and Russia, China, and Japan.

“This government’s move to reach out to these countries bodes well for tourism. We will have to brace for more tourists from China, Japan, and even Russia,” said Department of Tourism (DOT) consultant Robert “Bobby” Joseph in an interview.

For this year, the DOT is aiming to hit its 6.5-million foreign tourist arrivals target. It also targets 73.3 million domestic travelers within the country.

The agency is also eyeing P407 billion and P1.954 trillion in revenues from the spending of foreign and domestic tourists, respectively.

Joseph noted that the country’s impressive hosting of Miss Universe 2017, which exposed the country’s tourism jewels, is a good invitation for foreign tourists around the world to come.

But, he quickly pointed out that it is the government’s initiative to strengthen economic ties with other countries that would bring in the tourism numbers.

For instance, renewed relations between China and the Philippines would make the country more appealing to the mainland Chinese market, who are known to be high-spenders and long-staying guests.

“We will expect a boom in retail, for example. We will see more Chinese buying branded fashion items here,” he said.

But while we are set to enjoy high tourism activity this year, Joseph also stressed the need for the government to fix infrastructure, particularly runways and airports, and make rooms, connectivity, tourism products and services and front-liners more readily available.

“We need to fast track the upgrade of our infrastructure, otherwise, we won’t enjoy the heightened growth opportunities in tourism,” said Joseph.

Increased arrivals from China to the country have been felt since last year. Partial records from DOT 7 show that the region welcomed 4,996,432 tourists from January to November 2016, up by 16.39 percent over the same period in 2015.