Thursday, February 19, 2009 [ manilatimes.net ]
By Ben Arnold O. De Vera, Reporter
The number of South Korean tourists who would troop to the Philippines could slow down this year, the envoy of South Korea to the Philippines said in a roundtable with The Manila Times on Tuesday.
Ambassador Choi Joong-Kyung of South Korea noted that the global economic crisis might prompt South Koreans to put travel plans on hold and stay home in the until the crisis passes.
“Once South Korea’ domestic economy bounces back, South Korean tourists would definitely be coming here in large numbers,” he added.
About 600,000 South Koreans visit the Philippines annually, Choi said, adding that he thinks this phenomenon of South Koreans coming here in droves here “will last for a long time.”
Data from the Department of Tourism shows that the Philippines last year had the most number of foreign visitors arriving from South Korea, totaling 611,629, or 19.48 percent of the total number of tourists in 2008. However, Tourism department data also reveals that the number of South Korean tourists last year went down by 6.38 percent year-on-year, when compared to 653,310 in 2007.
The envoy added that there are also about 30,000 South Korean students currently studying all over the country. Most of these students are primarily here to learn the English language.
Popularity of the Philippines
Choi cited three reasons why many South Koreans are drawn to visit the Philippines.
First, it helps that the two nations are near each other, he said. “It’s just about a three-and-a-half hour flight from Seoul to Manila, Subic, Cebu or Boracay.”
Another major lure to South Korean visitors, the envoy said, is the country’s tropical climate and numerous nature spots. “The weather is pleasant, and your country’s tropical beauty and attractive natural assets pull in South Koreans.”
Lastly, the ambassador said many cultural similarities among Filipinos and South Koreans, which creates a warm and friendly feeling, entices these guests. “South Korean people feel comfortable in the Philippines,” Choi said.
He also noted that it has also been a pleasant surprise to South Korean tourists that many Filipinos, especially those from Luzon, look so much like them.
Choi said many South Korean couples going on their honeymoon, as well as golf fanatics and diving enthusiasts are as well pulled in to enjoy their vacations in the Philippines.
But the ambassador noted that a bigger number of South Korean tourists, especially those with higher incomes, would dash into the Philippine islands, if the country would develop more modern and high-end tourism facilities, and if the current shortage of hotel rooms in most tourist destinations would be immediately addressed.