By Azer N. Parrocha

MANILA, Feb. 10 (PNA) — Foreign tourist arrivals to the Philippines fell short of its 6 million target in 2016 with 5.9 million visitors, but a tourism official on Friday said this figure is ‘not bad’ for a year of transition into the Duterte administration.

“That is not so bad for someone transitioning,” Tourism Undersecretary for Media Affairs Kat De Castro told the Philippine News Agency in an interview. She was referring to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte took his oath as 16th President of the Philippines on June 30, 2016.

De Castro, however, said that the Department of Tourism (DOT) will work more “aggressively” to meet if not exceed its target of 6.5 to 7 million arrivals by the end of 2017.

“We’ll do better this year. We’ll be more aggressive,” De Castro said.

The Philippines recorded a total of 5.9 million foreign tourist arrivals, which is 11.31 percent higher compared to 5.3 million arrivals it acquired in 2015.

Korea remained the top source market with 1.4 million arrivals followed by the US with 869,463 arrivals, China with 675,663, Japan with 535,238 arrivals, and Australia with 251,098 arrivals.

Rounding up the top ten source markets are Taiwan (229,303), Singapore (176,057), Canada (175,631), United Kingdom (173,299) and Malaysia (139,133).

The 5.9 million foreign tourist arrivals generated tourism earnings of PHP230.13 billion which is 1.11 percent higher than the PHP227.62 billion earnings in 2015.

De Castro also expressed hope that the launch of the agency’s new campaign will convince more tourists to visit the Philippines.

The DOT launched its new campaign advertisement in January which answered the question why it’s “More Fun in the Philippines. The answer? “When you’re with Filipinos, you’re with family.”

It was first broadcast worldwide during the Miss Universe coronation show on Jan 30, 2017.

The ad was done with the help of global advertising agency, McCann Erickson, which won the bid to develop the slogan during the previous administration under then DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.

The Tourism official also said that DOT is looking forward to more big-ticket events this year such as the annual culinary event, Madrid Fusion Manila.

DOT will also be launching a new sports tourism-themed campaign with support from Senator-boxer Manny Pacquiao, who was serves as the department’s official endorser or tourism poster boy.

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