The Department of Tourism (DOT) sees the potential from international cruise lines increasing their ports of call and expanding visits to more islands in the country.
DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said that cruise arrivals in the Philippines grew by 48 percent in the last two years since 2011 or nearly 20,000 arrivals in 2013. While the country’s cruise infrastructure is still being developed, international cruise lines calling in the country have risen substantially, with 16 cruise vessels last year from just 10 in 2011.
“We are expecting some 18 cruise ships this year that should bring in more than 20,000 tourists. Our country’s proximity to major cruise source markets like China, Japan, and Hong Kong positions us at a competitive and comparative advantage in the Asia-Pacific region. This should give industry stakeholders greater prospects and our local communities new jobs and opportunities,” the tourism chief added.
Based on data from the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Philippines’ foreign tourist arrivals totaled 4,681,307 in 2013, of which 49.1 percent or 2,298,597 came from East Asia.
DOT’s aggressive marketing strategies, coupled with the opening of new air services and increase in flight frequencies, boosted the growth of tourists from the Asian region.
Speaking before guests and industry stakeholders at the Philippine Cruise Industry Workshop, Jimenez forecast an increase in demand in what was previously seen as a niche market.
“Preparation is absolutely essential. And that is what this workshop precisely calls for—to formulate a national cruise development plan that will chart the Philippines’ role in the cruising business in Southeast Asia,” he said.
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya echoed the huge impact of the cruise tourism industry to the country’s national economy.
“It is the job of the DOTC, the maritime agencies, to ensure that there is sufficient transportation infrastructure and efficient processes to support this growing industry. Interface with DOT has already started particularly in developing the country’s major ports of entry. We are one with the DOT and other government and private sectors in attaining a common goal: to enhance cruise experience and for our tourists to enjoy what the country has to offer,” Abaya reiterated.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) organized this cruise workshop in collaboration with the DOT, as a result of initial talks on the sidelines of the recently-concluded Asean Tourism Ministers Meeting held in Kuching, Malaysia early this year.
CLIA Southeast Asia Manager Kevin Leong enumerated the next steps and top priorities outlined by cruise industry stakeholders during the workshop. These included the need to streamline entry requirements and address passenger mobility; convenient, hassle-free, and seamless tourist experience of cruise travelers without compromising security; develop and expand port infrastructure; and, implement a strategic cruise itinerary planning.
The CLIA has initially identified five to six ports in the country, which will play a major role in the growing cruise tourism industry.
Carnival Corp. Vice President for Market Development William Harber and Royal Carribean International Vice President for Commercial Operations John Tercek, both CLIA members, shared their expertise during the workshop. The two cruise companies account for almost 80 percent of the total cruise business globally.
Both see great prospects for the Philippines becoming a major cruise hub once ports are improved and more tourism products and activities are developed. Prior to the workshop, CLIA members have already made the rounds and inspected the ports of Manila, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Caticlan, and Subic, where they also met with the respective local port authorities.
The DOT and CLIA both commit to cooperate in developing the Philippine cruise industry. The DOT has identified in its National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) cruise tourism as one of the product portfolios that the Philippines has competitive and comparative advantage in the Asia-Pacific region, highlighting the country as an ideal playground for many cruise activities, from cultural to nature and adventure destinations.