The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has set its sight on enhancing maritime tourism, after the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international tourism.

Marina Administrator Vice Admiral Robert A. Empedrad is seeing trends and opportunities that will define the future demands of maritime tourism. The agency has crafted a national cruise shipping development strategy and action plan.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) sets out strategic actions to promote the Philippines as a regional cruise center in Asia. Marina supports this plan by developing shipping services for maritime tourism.

"By 2028, we anticipate the increase of maritime tourists by 25 percent and the number of recreational boat accidents to remain at zero," Marina said.

"We have a projected world shortage of officers estimated at 92,000 in 2020 and 147,500 five years after. However, the projected increase in visitor arrivals via cruises is estimated to reach more than 400,000 passengers with 402 port calls by 2022," he said.

To develop shipping services for maritime tourism, Marina established a Philippine Registry for Recreational Boats (Marina MC DS-2019-01) that will encourage the documentation, licensing, and certification of ships designed for tourism or recreational purposes.

Marina Administrator Robert Empedrad PHOTO COURTESY OF MARINA
Marina Administrator Robert Empedrad PHOTO COURTESY OF MARINA
The number of recreational boats serving tourist destination areas is seen to increase by 80 percent and will create new jobs in local boatyards with an estimated growth of 25 percent. The percentage share of Filipino crew/personnel employed in foreign-flag cruise ships is estimated to increase by 60 percent.

It will develop cruise destinations based on the priority areas of the DOT. First is the Turquoise Triangle that goes through Manila and Subic Bay; Boracay, Iloilo, and Romblon; and Puerto Princesa, El Nido, and Coron.

Other potential cruise destinations in various parts of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao have also been identified. They are Aparri, Batanes, Curimao/Salomague, Ilocos Norte, Cebu, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental and Davao City.

The program's major components include the establishment of a Maritime Tourism Committee (MTC), develop the design and safety standards for recreational boats construction and operation; facilitate investments in maritime tourism; develop capacity building program for recreational maritime tourism crew/personnel, and boat building manpower and promotion of maritime tourism.

Meanwhile, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report showed that the crash in international tourism due to pandemics could cause huge economic losses in 2020 and 2021. "The estimated losses, which are worse than previously projected, have been caused by the pandemic's direct impact on tourism and its ripple effect on other sectors closely linked to it." It added that the tourism sector's recovery will largely depend on the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines globally.