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Koreans Resist Travel Bug but DOT's Upbeat
Philippine Tourism Secretary
Ace Durano

There are now fewer tourists from Korea but Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano assured the development is not isolated to the Philippines.

Durano said the number of Korean tourists to the Philippines has recently gone down 25 percent as the Korean economy has also been affected by the slowdown of the US economy and the depreciation of the won.

Fewer Koreans are going out of their country to any destination worldwide, not just the Philippines.

"This is caused by internal factors," he said in an interview during the launch of the Islands Banca Cruises off Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City on Sept. 27.

"Like any slump in the tourism industry, this is seasonal. even at this time we should continue to be aggressive in promoting the industry so we will be in a good position after the slump," he said.

He said the financial crisis in the United States, which caused the weakening of the US market, has affected the economy in South Korea. The US is a major consumer of South Korean exports.

The depreciation of the South Korean currency against the US dollar has also hindered Koreans' holiday trips abroad, he said.

As of July this year, the won depreciated 7.5 percent against the dollar, reaching 1,080 won per greenback for July alone, even after government intervention. KBS World reported that among the Asian currencies that faltered against the dollar, the Korean won has fallen the most since 2007 by 15.6 percent.

Durano said these financial factors affect the mid-income Koreans the most, and they also compose the bulk of most tourists coming to the Philippines.

From January to June this year in Central Visayas, the number of Korean tourists reportedly went down 8.71 percent to 109,842 from 120,000 in the same period in 2007.

To sustain growth in the industry, the secretary said the Department of Tourism continues to promote the country to various markets, including those interested in adventure tourism.

He said the Philippines can take advantage of adventure tourism that with the US market alone—and even under present financial circumstances—has a potential to bring in revenues amounting to $450 million a year.

Cebu is a good destination for soft to extreme adventure, he said.

Even with government's funding constraints, adventure tourism can be developed because there is no need for additional infrastructure, particularly for extreme activities, he said.

"The tourist has an authentic experience with the community," he said.

Potential adventure tourism sites include caving, spelunking and trekking, Durano said. He named Toledo and Alegria as potential sites for caving. (






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