Given that Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) resulted in foreign tourist arrival growth in November and December 2013 compared with the same months in the previous year being slashed to 2.51 and 2.39 per cent respectively, the above year on year rise of 9.56 per cent to more than 4.6 million is an excellent performance.
I am guessing that Asian inbound package tour tourists were the source of many cancellations in November and December 2013. Vistors from South Korea declined by 12 per cent in both these last two months of 2013. Because about one in four tourists coming to Philippines are from South Korea, this decline makes a big hit in the numbers.
Mainland China was the big 'improver' in 2013 with its citizens' visits to the land of 7107 islands rising by 70 per cent. South Korean arriovals rose 13 per cent (a figure that would have been in excess of 15 per cent were it not for the two last months of 2013) but Taiwanese arrivals dropped almost 40 per cent.
Arrivals from ASEAN countries rose by more than 12 per cent, with Vietnam (28 per cent), Indonesia (almost 25 per cent) and small but wealthy Brunei (38 per cent) among the standouts.
It is encouraging that in December 2013, arrivals from Canada rose 12 per cent and from USA seven per cent, but this activity after a long period of anamic growth (particularly from USA) may be due to 'voluntourism' following the typhoon. I doubt that serving military are counted as 'tourists' but who knows?
It is very pleasing that once again, Australians continued to flock to Philippines with total yearly arrivals broaching 200,000 for the first time (at 213000). We may be only 23 million but as a nation that largely prefers independent to group travel, more of us each year are discovering that Philippines is a great alternative to Thailand and Bali, Indonesia (Philippines' two biggest competitors) and even to a smaller extent Fiji.
Some pundits are saying that the USA economy may recover a bit in 2014: this is yet to be proven, but even if it is a mild recovery, Philippines will benefit in tourism.
Hopefully the South Koreans realise that 95 per cent plus of Philippines was unaffected or has recovered from the typhoon (the major exception is Tacloban City, Leyte and some other centres on Leyte) so they should come back in numbers.
Overall although it did not meet the over optimistic target, it was still an excellent result. Congratulations to Tourism Secretary Mr Ramon Jimenez.Edited: 21 February 2014, 23:02