FOREIGN students for English as a Second Language (ESL) programs have started coming back to Cebu.

This was announced by the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT 7) on Thursday, June 9, 2022.

The return of ESL students signals good prospects for the tourism industry moving forward.

“The Department of Tourism Central Visayas, together with Philippine Department of Tourism Osaka and the Office of Product and Market Development-ESL, celebrates the resurgence of students who will be studying ESL in Cebu,” DOT 7 said in a statement.

According to the tourism agency, the first big group of young students from Nagoya, Japan arrived on June 4, 2022 at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, marking the return of the physical ESL market in the region.

DOT 7 said it supports the initiatives of ESL school associations to bring back long-staying students in Cebu.

These include the hosting of familiarization trips in Cebu for education agents abroad, and several consortium efforts to further promote and achieve the country’s shared objectives for the ESL sector.

The sector’s resurgence is a big boost to Cebu’s tourism recovery.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and forced borders to close, Cebu’s major markets for students stopped coming.

Before the pandemic, Cebu had been a major player in the sector.

Among the first main clientele were Koreans, and later diversified to other non-English speaking markets like Japan and, most recently, Taiwan.

Arrivals from Taiwan alone in 2019 grew 60 percent from 2018, mainly due to ESL students, according to the DOT 7.

There are about 100 ESL online and offline schools in Cebu.

The ESL sector essentially drives tourism because its students who stay here from one week to three months spend not only for tuition but also for sightseeing and shopping, among others.