MANILA, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines is looking forward to welcoming Chinese tourists back to the Southeast Asian country, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said on Saturday.
"We gladly welcome back our Chinese friends to the Philippines' award-winning and emerging tourist destinations," she added.
The Philippines and China have agreed to boost tourism cooperation earlier this month during the visit of Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos to China, stressing the importance of people-to-people relations and cultural exchanges between the two nations.
Frasco said the Philippines "is grateful for the commitment to the continued pursuit of fruitful and productive Filipino-Chinese interactions."
"We embrace with enthusiasm the continued convergence and collaborations of our tourism stakeholders, travelers, tourism players, national agencies, local government units, and host communities, in making the Year of the Rabbit a truly prosperous year for Philippine tourism," she added.
Frasco noted the rabbit symbolizes longevity, peace and prosperity. "As we usher in this New Year with hope and optimism for the tourism industry, we look forward to a stronger partnership and collaboration with the Chinese community and stakeholders in the year ahead."
As a key economic driver, the tourism industry's contribution to the Philippines' gross domestic product (GDP) stood at 12.7 percent in 2019.
Over 1.74 million Chinese tourists visited the Philippines in 2019, an increase of 38.58 percent from 2018. Chinese tourists spent more than 2.3 billion U.S. dollars while vacationing in the country, official data showed.