[PHOTO - Outrigger on the picturesque Philippine island of Camiguin which is popular with tourists. (Photo: chjab) China is suspending some tourism to the Philippines and increasing inspections on fruit imports in an apparent bid to use economic pressure to end a standoff over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. The Shanghai Tourism Bureau recently ordered tours to the Philippines suspended indefinitely, according to staff with the Yiyou and Guojikuaixian travel agencies in the eastern financial hub.]

MANILA, MAY 11, 2012 (ABS-CBN) By Cathy Rose A. Garcia - The Philippine tourism industry is bracing itself for the effects of Chinese travel agents' suspension of tour packages to the Philippines.

China is the fourth largest source of tourist arrivals to the Philippines, and the fastest-growing market. In the first quarter, there was a 77% surge in Chinese tourist arrivals to 96,455.

With the loss of Chinese tourists, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) on Thursday said the industry would have to focus its efforts in attracting tourists from other markets.

"Of course, it's very impactful for us considering its one of the top 5 markets that we have initially targeted. However, we just want to put into perspective that they are one of the target markets. If we want tourism to grow in the Philippines, then obviously, we would have to adjust our efforts into the other countries, should the conflict continue to persist," PTAA president Aileen Clemente told ANC's On the Scene.

Clemente sought to downplay the impact of the loss of Chinese tourists, saying the Philippines' top three markets are still South Korea, U.S., and Japan.

She also noted the PTAA has seen increased interest from countries like Australia, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

"We believe they can augment whatever it is the Philippines will lose from Chinese tourists arrivals," she added.

Earlier, Chinese travel agents, such as and Beijing International Travel Service, announced they are halting all tours to the Philippines and say they will not accept bookings until the situation improves.

China has also warned its citizens in Manila to stay off the streets on Friday, when anti-China protests are expected to be held.

Clemente said the effects of the Chinese cancellations will probably be felt within a week, and will last for about 2 months.

"Some of our airlines are definitely going to hurt because we just recently got an update that their chartered flights have already been cancelled. It's a risk that we all take in travel," she said.

However, the PTAA still remains hopeful that the Philippines and China will resolve their differences amicably.

"While the PTAA wishes that circumstances are different right now, we are still very much hopeful the prevailing tension at the Scarborough Sholes will be resolved at the soonest possible time by our respective governments," she said.

Top 5 Tourist Arrivals to the Philippines (January-March 2012)

KOREA 265,031 U.S 179,561 JAPAN 104,558 CHINA 96,455 TAIWAN 57,745 *Source: Department of Tourism

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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