THE INCREASE of foreign tourist arrivals picked up and sustained a double-digit rate last semester, the government reported on Monday.

The Department of Tourism (DoT) said in a press release that 4,133,050 foreign tourists arrived in the Philippines last semester, 11.43% more than a year ago.

That compares to a goal of 8.2 million for this year set under the National Tourism Development Plan 2016-2022.

Preliminary DoT data for 2018’s first half bared a 10.4% hike.

“We have already breached the 4 million mark within the first six months of the year,” the statement quoted Tourism Secretary Bernadette R. Puyat as saying.

“Seven years ago, it took the entire year to reach 4 million tourists,” she added, citing “better and increased connectivity” with “new, rehabilitated and expanded airports” contributing “much to this growth.”

Ms. Puyat had described the six-month closure last year of Boracay Island, the Philippines’ top tourist attraction, as a blessing in disguise as it opened the eyes of both local and foreign tourists to the country’s other destinations.

“By expanding our portfolio of tourism products and by developing and promoting our lesser-known but emerging destinations, we have attracted a large yet diverse set of foreign travelers and have sustained our growth in the highly competitive Southeast Asian region,” she said.

June alone saw a 21.41% increase to 643,780 foreign tourist arrivals from 530,267 a year ago, which had recorded an 11.35% rise using preliminary data then.

South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Taiwan were the top five sources of tourists.

There were 7.1 million foreign tourist arrivals last year, narrowly missing the government’s 7.4 million goal. — G. M. Cortez