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A Fifth of Tourists to Philippines are Balikbayans – Statistics

Data collected over the last two years by the Philippines tourism department and immigration bureau have uncovered the fact that more than 20% of those visiting the country are Filipinos living abroad. They are colloquially known as Balikbayans (a combination of tagalog words meaning “return” and “motherland”), a word you will be familiar with if you are one.

These numbers do not take into account Filipino nationals who work abroad and go for a holiday, but those who have taken up citizenship in other countries. Officially, they are termed “Foreign nationals who have a ‘disposition to visit’ the Philippines”.

An article by Buena Bernal of brought to light this statistic, and goes on to show that the number has slightly increased from 2013 to 2014.

Numbers in summary:
*01 Jan to 30 Nov statistics only

The Philippine’s Tourism Secretary has stated that this percentage has no effect on the statistics for tourism, and they will be treated as foreign nationals. It was further emphasized that the law will treat them as foreign citizens despite their origin in the Philippines.

The Philippines is known worldwide as a country with positive net migration, and it is estimated that there are 10.49 million Filipinos living overseas, as follows:

  • 4.22 million temporary migrants or those whose stay overseas is employment-related
  • 4.93 million permanent migrants or those whose stay does not depend on employment
  • 1.34 million are irregular migrants or those without the proper travel documents


Additionally, it is stated that there were 779,389 permanent Filipino migrants from 2004 to 2013, mostly in the United States.

By far the most popular country for Filipinos to migrate to is the United States, which has an estimated 53% of all Filipino migrants.


Why not delineate?

The question arises from the statistics listed above – why not differentiate between the two (balikbayans and foreign-origin tourists)? The experts have different opinions:

The president of pro-OFW advocacy group KAMPI stated that the number of balikbayans visiting the Philippines speaks volumes on the need to capitalise on tourism.

“It is important to distinguish actual tourists from balikbayans”, he said. “Doing so will determine how attractive our country is to foreigners and not just to Filipinos who visit for sentimental reasons.”

He also added that it will serve as a gauge in determining the success of tourism campaigns in attracting foreigners.

The Tourism Secretary disagreed with this, stating that the balikbayans’ ‘disposition to visit’ is a plus to the tourism industry.

He added that the country stands to gain as much from balikbayans as other tourists, given equal purchasing power.

He further added that the United Nations World Tourism Organization accepts the inclusion of citizens naturalized abroad in the count for tourist arrivals, since the distance from the Philippines is still the main barrier for tourism.

The BI Commissioner also stated that balikbayans are still foreign nationals in the eyes of the immigration bureau and are thus subject to immigration laws.

What does this mean to you?

Balikbayans – Persons of Filipino origin naturalised in other countries – return for several reasons, the most obvious one being sentimentality and meeting friends and relatives from their past, and may be catch up on their family history. Another reason may be that they have earned enough money abroad to actually travel the Philippines, and to visit its many wonders that may have eluded them when they were still in the Philippines. One more reason is to show their children and even grandchildren where they came from, and how they survived.

Whether you are a balikbayan, a Filipino working abroad, or planning to visit the Philippines as a tourist in the near future, the wonders this archipelago holds are endless. Contact Mabuhay Travel today for the best deals in flights to any destination in the Philippines. Our team of experts will give you personalised service and the best prices on the market. Ask us about seasonal offers, group bookings, add-ons or customised itineraries; we are equipped to provide you all this and more.


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I’m a friendly and hardworking person who strives to be better in whatever I put my mind to. I love to travel and experience different cultures around the world. Coming from an attractive town in London. I been in this field for the past few years and have loved where it has taken me. I acquired a talent for writing and I’m the latest articles writer for Mabuhay Travel Blog.

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