DOT chief sees boom in PHL cruise tourism

SINGAPORE -- With archipelagos in ASEAN to rival the Aegean, the Caribbean, or the South Pacific, not to mention, the year-round tropical weather and diverse and attractive destinations within short sailing distances, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo sees the development of cruise as a viable tourism product that could draw in visitors to the Philippines by the bulk.

During the Asian Cruise Dialogue held in conjunction with the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), the DOT chief met with representatives of global cruise giants to explore this highly lucrative industry, which many consider a novelty.

Teo first met with Paul Chong, Vice president for Business Development of the largest cruise company, Carnival Corporation, who noted that the Philippines has a great potential in becoming one of Asia's important cruise hubs primarily because of its strategic location.

Realizing the huge economic impact of cruise tourism and to take advantage of the immense potentials of the Philippine islands, Teo presented the idea of a call to port of some of Carnival's 101 ships in prime islands including Cebu, Boracay, Palawan, Manila and Davao and Subic.

Teo likewise explored the possibility of building new cruise ports in Palawan and Batanes.

Chong, on the other hand, disclosed that they have conducted an ocular inspection in Palawan two years ago and concluded that the province is yet to be ready for the thousands of cruise passengers that will disembark from their luxury liners. He promised, however, to look into the provinces and islands that Teo endorsed.

Teo admitted that "It will be a big challenge because there is still so much to be done. All these won't prosper if there is no government cooperation, promotion and investment in cruise infrastructure and backing from the private sector in terms of land-side tourism support such as tours, guides, coaches, and venues to increase passenger satisfaction. But we have to do it. The Philippines will make the most of cruise tourism being one of the most successful sectors in the tourism industry."

A pillar in the travel and tour industry, the DOT chief also noted that it is vital for the department to work closely with cruise providers to create attractive alternative itineraries with multiple stops for tourists.

Teo also met with Genting executives to encourage more homeporting from their 21 vessels in addition to the SuperStar Virgo's scheduled homeporting in Manila in March 19, the first global cruise line to do so.

The 2,000-capacity vessel will complete a 15-week sailing of Manila-Laoag-Kaohsiung (Taiwan)-Hongkong-Manila and is projected to bring in some 50,000 international visitors to the Philippines.

Banking on planned tourism infrastructure, Teo also noted the need to ready the islands for the arrival of these big ships as only Manila, Puerto Princesa, Cebu and Subic Bay have ports suitable for the docking of large cruise vessels.

She said the ports of Boracay, Coron, Bohol and Poro Point in La Union, while offering breath-taking views, can only accommodate mid-sized ships. On the other hand, only small vessels can dock in the ports of Salamongue (Ilocos Sur), Curimao (Ilocos Norte), Hundred Islands ( Pangasinan) and Kalanggaman (Leyte).

"But our Cruise Tourism Roadmap is already in place and I am confident that we will get the full support of the different government agencies on this initiative and see the launching of several new cruise ports under the Duterte Administration" exclaimed Teo. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency