TOURISM arrivals in Region 7 surged to almost four million in 2014, exceeding last year’s target of 3.6 million, the latest report from the Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 shows.

The agency said it has exceeded its tourism arrivals target last year with 3.97 million, up by 13.91 percent compared to the arrivals in 2013.

Of the figures, 2.4 million were domestic arrivals in Central Visayas, up by 11.41 percent from 2013’s record of two million. Foreign arrivals, likewise, grew by 17.67 percent or 1.6 million last year, compared to 1.3 million in 2013.

Cebu, which is the region’s major tourism attraction, welcomed 84 percent of the arrivals. The report showed 2.97 million in total arrivals, of whom 1.3 million were foreign tourists.

Negros Oriental came second with total arrivals of 518,571 followed by Bohol with 438,908 and Siquijor with 40,485.

High tourism arrivals in these four provinces were driven by the domestic market, and came on the heels of the natural calamities in late 2013, which some industry players had feared would dampen tourism growth.

South Korea remained the region’s top source market and arrivals from that country grew by 10.97 percent, for a total of 594,985 arrivals. Japan, which came second, sent 243,565 visitors to the region, up by 19.23 percent from the figures in 2013.

Arrivals from the United States also increased by 14.97 percent or 135,973 arrivals last year, while the tourist traffic from China market grew by 13.20 percent or 64,489 arrivals.

Fastest growth: UK arrivals

Completing the top five travel markets for the region is Australia with 51,975 arrivals, up by 21.16 percent.

Other significant markets include the United Kingdom. The number of arrivals from the UK grew fastest last year at 48.86 percent or 38,462 arrivals. This was followed by Germany, which grew by 17.12 percent or 31,765 arrivals. The region also welcomed some 29,319 Canadian tourists last year, with arrivals going up by 10.76 percent compared to the data from 2013.

France and Singapore also posted growths of 8.97 percent and 21.01 percent, respectively. France logged 23,569 arrivals last year while arrivals from Singapore stood at 20,961.

However, the DOT missed its target of welcoming six million foreign tourists by 2014, citing a number of factors, including the effects of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013, and Beijing’s advisory to its citizens not to travel to the Philippines.

The latest available report shows that the DOT welcomed 4.83 million tourists in 2014, a 3.25-percent increase over the previous year’s 4.68 million arrivals.

Asia was the biggest market for the Philippines during the year, with 2.83 million visitors or 59 percent of the total. The Americas followed with 875,200 for a market share of 18 percent; Europe, 10 percent; Australia and the Pacific, six percent; and overseas Filipinos, four percent.

Mostly by air

During the year, air arrivals accounted for 98.75 percent of total inbound traffic or 4,773,185 arrivals. Sea arrivals, on the other hand, accounted for 1.25 percent or 60,183 visitors.

By air arrivals, Manila remained the primary port of entry with a share of 72.50 percent or 3,504,123 arrivals. Cebu ranked second with a total of 697,696 inbound visitors or 14.43 percent of the total traffic during the year.

The DOT said that in the last 12 years, visitor arrivals in Cebu grew by 308 percent from 170,982 visitors in 2002. From 2010 to 2014, visitors disembarking in Cebu recorded an annual growth of 10.12 percent.

The DOT also reported that tourism revenues reached P214.8 billion (US$4.84 billion) last year, higher by 10 percent against the previous year’s earnings of US$4.40 billion.

Visitors from Korea contributed the most, with P61.02 billion, accounting for 33 percent of all inbound receipts. USA followed with P41.43 billion (22 percent), followed by Australia (P13.94 billion) and Japan (P10.68 billion).

Canada with P8.48 billion outranked China, which recorded the fifth biggest revenue in 2013.

During the year, Korea kept its position as the leading source market with 1.17 million visitors, up by 0.83 percent from its arrivals of 1.16 million in 2013.

Arrivals from China declined by 7.37 percent from 426,352 in 2013 to 394,951 during the year. However, this did not dislodge China as the country’s fourth biggest source market.