THE Department of Tourism (DOT) revealed Saturday that Cebu was the top destination among the top 14 areas last year.

Although its tourist traffic only increased by 1.2 percent at 1.61 million compared to 1.59 million in 2008, Cebu held on to the top spot, thanks to the visits of Korean and Chinese tourists.

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A hefty growth in tourists from Kuwait was also recorded, as students from these markets streamed to Cebu for short-educational programs.

The expansion of hotels and suites in Cebu also helped in the increase in tourism traffic with 804 new rooms opened in 2009.

This included the Imperial Palace Water Park, Resort and Spa (567 rooms), Citi Park Hotel (105 rooms), Alpa City Suites (84 rooms), Oftana Suites (24 rooms), and Grand Terra Suite (24 rooms).

Innovative and young entrepreneurs also prepped up existing tour packages in Cebu and nearby destination, according to DOT. Existing heritage tour has been enhanced to allow tourists to experience the cultural and historical aspect of the city.

Meanwhile, the biggest growth rate in tourism was recorded in Camarines Sur.

Tourists increased by 117.2 percent to 1.57 million compared to the 2008 volume of visitors at 721,024.

International and local events, such as the First Aqua Fest Celebrity Challenge, Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, International Dragon Boat Competition and Bagasbas Summer Surf, boosted domestic visitors to Camarines Sur by 140 percent to 1.3 million, while foreign tourists went up by 56.1 percent.

Metro Manila is the third most visited destination with tourist volume of 1.4 million, accounting for 16 percent of the total tourist count with the help of the opening of 1,056 new hotel rooms.

Major international events in Metro Manila like the International Conference on Green Industry in Asia, East Asia Seas Congress, Asian Congress on Health and Peace Tourism, and Eco-Products International Fair have also increased utilization of various tourism facilities.

Other tourist destinations that belong in the top 14 are: Baguio City (5.50 percent), Davao City (2.17 percent), Boracay (2.41 percent), Cagayan de Oro (10.44 percent), Zambales (4.79 percent), Bohol (10.91 percent), Puerto Princesa City (21.29 percent), Camiguin (5.82 percent), Cagayan Valley (0.11 percent), Negros Oriental (8.67 percent) and Ilocos Norte (5.40 percent).

Total tourist traffic in the top 14 destinations reached 8.9 million to hit the 14 percent growth.

“DOT attributes the increase to the efforts of the private sector, local government units and other stakeholders that continually diversify the tourism products,” said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano.

Tourist traffic in the top destinations is forecast to grow by 15 percent this year as domestic travel movement continues to increase and international tourist markets slowly recover from the economic crisis. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)