• Upgrade ports to draw cruise ships – DOT

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    THE Department of Tourism (DOT) is calling for an upgrade of the country’s major ports as part of a new strategy to draw cruise ships and more investments into the tourism sector.

    In a statement on Thursday, the DOT said it had drawn up a cruise tourism strategy following a workshop with port authorities and key government infrastructure agencies.

    The strategy seeks to develop the “Turquoise Triangle” that will link tourist destinations in Manila, Boracay and Puerto Princesa in Palawan. New cruise destinations in northern Luzon, where ships departing East Asian hubs can arrive after one day at sea, were likewise pinpointed in the plan.

    “Once completed, the cruise strategy will pave the way for definitive actions and investments into infrastructure, facilities and services. Clearly, our job is to set up the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. These include enhancement of ship access through the development of port and shore-side infrastructure; facilitation of business entry and offering exciting tour packages, among others,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said in the statement.

    “Only then can we draw in the much-needed foreign direct investments to pump-prime the industry. We must surge ahead to build this multimillion-dollar travel sector and disperse the economic benefits to the countryside,” she added.

    Cruise tourism is one of the nine “product portfolios” identified in the DOT’s National Tourism Development Plan that will enhance the competitiveness of the country as a tourist destination in the Asia-Pacific region. The others are nature-based, cultural and sun and beach tourism; MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions); leisure and entertainment; diving and marine sports; health, wellness and retirement; and educational tourism.

    Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr., who heads the Cruise Tourism Development Committee for the Philippines, said that in 2016, the Philippines attracted just 72 cruise port calls, a relatively small share compared with the top Asian ports. Singapore had 374 port calls in 2014 while Jeju Island and Hong Kong had 217 and 200, respectively.

    “As a key element of our strategy, we are determined to build new dedicated cruise facilities, most especially in Manila. A superior cruise port and terminal in the capital, with its extensive airlift and ground facilities, will create a compelling reason for large ships to spend time in the Philippines,” he said.

    “Future growth in cruise tourism is guaranteed with strong support from the government and private sectors, a highly professional and experienced network of port agents and tour operators, plus growing awareness from major cruise lines of all the Philippine archipelago has to offer,” Bengzon added.

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