DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 3 February) – The Chinese Consulate General’s Office here has flown to Manila “all their nationals staying as tourists” in this city and other parts of Mindanao in the wake of the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus health crisis that originated in China, Consul General Li Lin said Monday.
Li revealed this amid the announcement that Xiamen Airlines (XiamenAir) cancelled all the direct flights between Jinjiang in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian and Davao City for the whole month of February until further notice.
In a press conference at the Chinese consular office, Li said the last batch of Chinese tourists were flown Sunday to Manila for assistance by their embassy in returning to China.
“We have already sent Chinese tourists visiting the Davao and Mindanao areas during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) back to China (via Manila). By the latest contact with local travel agencies here in Davao, they reported to me that no Chinese tourists are remaining in Davao,” he said.
Chinese tourists usually stay in Davao from three days to one week, Li said.
The envoy did not give a figure on the Chinese tourists who visited the city for the Chinese New Year, which was celebrated on January 25.
He noted the Chinese tourists were not compelled to leave Davao, but were only “advised” since the lifting of the suspension of the Davao-Jinjiang flights is still uncertain.
“The Jinjiang-Davao-Jinjiang flights for the whole month of February are cancelled. If they want to stay, they might not be able to go back to China (this month coming from Davao),” he said.
Xiamen Airlines opened the twice weekly Jinjiang-Davao-Jinjiang direct flights on December 18, 2018, following the signing of the sisterhood agreement between the two cities to enhance bilateral relations, trade and tourism.
Data from the City Tourism Office showed that Chinese tourists in Davao City surged to 14,934 last year, or an increase of 37.93 percent from 10,827 recorded in 2018, making China the second biggest market of Davao’s tourism industry.
The significant growth in the arrival of Chinese visitors dwarfed even that of Americans and Japanese last year.
Records showed that Americans, who topped the list, grew by just 3.36 percent from 21,324 in 2018 to 22,041 last year while the Japanese visitors grew only by 3.44 percent from 12,800 in 2018 to 13,241 in 2019.
Li said their consular office here “would continue normal operations” despite the notably fewer visa applications since the global outbreak of 2019-nCoV, which was first reported in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019.
“Our work is still very normal but we want to follow both instructions from China and also the travel advisory of the local government as well as the Philippine national government. The number of visa applicants in our office is very small, in other respect, we are operating very normal,” he said.