Pomp and gaiety welcomed 2,275 tourists to Boracay island resort on their arrival Saturday morning on the cruise ship Legend of the Seas from Xiamen, China, the Department of Tourism said on Tuesday.
The Philippine Tourism Week officially began with the arrival of the huge number of visitors on the first international cruise since the change in government.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said the success of the event was the fruit of shared efforts of the tour organizers, DoT Regional Office-6, and the municipal government of Malay, Aklan.
“The cruise shows that our country remains a safe place to visit despite travel warnings due to international politics,” Teo said.
She said Chinese tourist arrivals dropped slightly after the international tribunal ruling on the West Philippine Sea, but it soon recovered and grew in recent weeks.
Chinese arrivals rose by 64 percent from 257,014 in the January-July period last year to 422,801 in the same period this year.
Assistant Secretary Gwen Javier and Regional Office-6 Director Helen Catalbas welcomed the visitors at the Cagban Jetty Port.
A colorful Ati-atihan group performed as local DoT staff handed out handmade garlands to the vacationing Chinese professionals, retirees and families with children.
“We are pleased to note that a charter has been initiated by travel trade counterparts in China. This underscores our continuing warm tourism and cultural ties amidst the ongoing territorial strife. This augurs well for our industry and as we pursue our National Cruise Tourism Strategy grounded on ports development and rehabilitation,” Javier said.
The visitors took a dip in crystal-clear waters, others lay on the white-sand beach for hours, and some went sight-seeing on nearby Aklan islands.
“We’re so happy to host and offer our visitors from China the best tourism experience in Western Visayas, which we market as a world-class tourist destination,” Catalbas said.
The Region 6 tourism chief disclosed that two more Royal Caribbean cruise ships are due in October and November.
Next to Koreans, the Chinese comprise the biggest tourist market of Region 6.
At least 183,708 Chinese visited Western Visayas, mainly Boracay, last year, while Koreans numbered 331,269, the DoT said.
After the Legend of the Seas first visited the Philippines in 2012, the country became part of its regular itinerary in Asia.