THERE is a boost in local tourism despite the weakening in the international tourism market, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).

DOT Undersecretary Oscar Palayabyab said that in a random sampling his agency conducted two years ago, there were 11 to 16 million local tourists recorded nationwide.

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Palayabyab admitted the need to scale down the five million foreign tourist arrivals into a more realistic target until such time that the global economy will stabilize most likely in the next 10 years.

“We are happy if we make it to three million until the end of the year, (December 2009),” he said.

Topping the list of tourist destination is Camarines Sur, which boasts of its Water Sports Complex visited by more than a million for the first nine months.

The second favorite destination is Cebu, while Baguio ranks as third favorite due to its climate, which according to Palayabyab is incomparable to other areas in the country.

Tourism of Baguio may have been affected for awhile due to Typhoon "Pepeng", damaging major access roads.

Recognizing the efforts of the private sector, Palayabyab said they have greatly contributed in bringing back the city into the main stream as major tourist destination.

Despite the major calamities that also affected Metro Manila and Northern Luzon, the long holidays justified the increase in tourist arrivals Palayabyab said.

"We keep on assuring tourist popular destinations are still okay," he further said.

There is no problem in creating a demand in drawing tourists, according to Palayabyab.

“However, we cannot increase volume of traffic of tourist arrivals unless there is a corresponding growth in capacity meaning gaining more ground in local investment,” he said.

He also encouraged development of other areas and emphasized the concept of synergy or cross visits in other areas that will have a rippling effect economically. (Susan Aro)