THE number of foreign tourists arriving in Cebu dropped in 2009, government figures showed.

Only 625,098 foreign tourists arrived last year, compared with the 649,593 foreign travelers in 2008, according to data of the Department of Tourism 7 (DOT).

Domestic tourists, however, increased 4.89% to 993,172.

There was a large drop in the number of tourists from Taiwan, Brunei and Myanmar. But the number of tourists from Vietnam, China, and the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia increased.

Most of the tourists go to Cebu to either travel or study. The acceptance of foreign students by the different universities and colleges in the province was also credited in helping attract more tourists to Cebu.

In Cebu Doctor’s University (CDU), 254 foreign students were enrolled in the second semester of 2009. Most of them came from Korea, Iran and Africa. According to Anthony Paul Ancit of the Student Affairs Office in CDU, these students enroll in different courses offered by the university but the top courses are dentistry and medicine.

For Cleverlearn English Language Institute (CELI), a Bigfoot company located in Mactan, there was a 20% decrease in their number of English students by the end of 2009. Most of the enrollees in CELI come from Korea and Japan. In Korea, the decline was mostly due to the fluctuating currency.

Last month, Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano projected a 15% increase in tourist arrivals in the country this year, led by Cebu. In 2009, Cebu topped the list of the 14 most visited Philippine destinations. The DOT attributed Cebu’s tourism growth to the adding of flights, opening of new hotels and entrepreneurs offering organized packaged island tours.