SARS scare is small problem, big cost in Philippines

PHILIPPINES. Tourist arrivals in the Philippines contracted -9.9% year-on-year to 157,036 in March, the Department of Tourism said today.

SARS, the Iraq war and the terror attack that killed over a dozen people near an airport in southern Philippines were cited as reasons for the fall in tourist numbers.

However, total tourist arrivals for the first quarter overall were +2.6% higher at 495,390 due to a strong performance in February, when arrivals were up +6%. East Asia accounted for nearly half, or 239,492, of tourist arrivals in the first quarter, still +4.4% higher even with an -11% fall in arrivals in March.

“It is noted that Hong Kong and Taiwan, the countries mostly affected by the SARS, recorded declines in arrivals,” the tourism department said.

Arrivals from Hong Kong, the territory most affected by SARS, fell -39% on year in March to 9,806 and were down -25% to 33,989 in the first quarter. Tourists numbers from Taiwan were down -4% in the first quarter, and -18% on year in March. Data showed that arrivals from China were still up +16% to 2,589 in March and +33% up in the quarter to 8,635.

The Philippines has registered just two suspected SARS deaths to date.

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