More int’l cruise lines eye stop in Phl – DOT

Donnabelle L. Gatdula (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Tourism (DOT) expects more cruise ships to bring in more than 20,000 tourists to the Philippines this year, the country’s tourism chief said.

In a statement, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said this indicates the strong interest of international cruise lines to include the Philippines in their ports of call.

“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,” he said.

Jimenez said cruise arrivals in the Philippines grew 48 percent over the past two years, reaching nearly to 20,000 in 2013.

While the country’s cruise infrastructure is being developed, international cruise lines calling in the country have increased substantially, with 16 cruise vessels last year from just 10 in 2011.

Jimenez believes that what is now considered a niche market will see an increase in demand in the years ahead.

“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 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 said.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the DOT organized a cruise workshop recently as a result of initial talks in 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, which 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 harnessing infrastructure investment that would address the increasing demand for cruise tourism in the country and the development of waterfront activities.

Carnival Corp. vice president for market development William Harber and Royal Caribbean 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. 

Harber and Tercek see great prospects for the Philippines to 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 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 portfolio that the Philippines has competitive and comparative advantage in in the Asia Pacific region, highlighting the country as an ideal playground for many cruise activities, from cultural to nature and adventure destinations.

 “The most important cruise experience in the Philippines is definitely meeting and befriending the Filipino people who are eager to share various facets of living life to the fullest - one of the reasons why it’s more fun in the Philippines,” Jimenez said.


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