A TOTAL of 6.9 million tourists visited Central Visayas in 2017, up by 17.13 percent from 2016.
China has overtaken Japan in terms of arrivals, with 429,306 arrivals last year.
It posted the highest growth among the top 10 foreign markets of the region at 75 percent, from 244,925 arrivals in the previous year.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, in a statement, credited the high arrivals in the region to the increased visibility of tourist sites across different media platforms and the collaboration among the tourism industry players, local government units (LGUs), other stakeholders and the Department of Tourism.
South Korea remained the region’s top tourist market, with arrivals of 895,776 last year, up by 6.26 percent, followed by China, and Japan with 408,566 arrivals.
According to DOT 7, many Korean tourists are attracted to the warm weather, friendly environment, and competitive English education.
South Korea has consistently remained the top tourist market over the last five years.
“This trend is expected to continue in 2018, although arrivals from China are expected to maintain strong growth,” the agency said.
The increase in Chinese arrivals marks a significant milestone as a result of the warming relations between the two countries, said DOT 7.
It added that the opening of more direct flights from cities in China to Cebu would led to the increase in arrivals from the mainland.
GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMACAC) president Louie Ferrer, in a separate interview, said they anticipate more airlines from China to mount direct flights to Cebu with the opening of Terminal 2 this June.
Ferrer said they got commitments from 10 airlines from China to mount flights to Cebu last year. However, only six pursued their plans while two airlines deferred due to the fighting in Marawi.
“Hopefully, we will get the other four this year,” he said.
Ferrer added GMCAC is engaging in talks with other airline companies to help Cebu connect to other parts of the globe.
“Arrivals from Japan and Korea are increasing and we hope to serve these markets more while we continue courting airlines from other countries,” he said.
Other top source markets of Central Visayas are the United States (219, 796), Taiwan (71,739), Australia (71,724), Germany (58,432), France (50,257), United Kingdom (49,484), and Canada (43,084).