Freeman Cebu Business

Cebu tourism marks another banner year

Ehda M. Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The year 2018 brought Cebu to stardom in tourism, as this is the year when the province opened the country’s most modern airport terminal, followed by the influx of hotel and resort investments, more international direct flights and historical growth in tourist arrivals.


Easily, this made Cebu as the top performing province in tourism, as proclaimed by Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat months after she was appointed to head the office in May 2018.

Banner Year

“The year 2018 was a banner year for Cebu in tourism. We saw positive performance. We experienced for the first time in many, many, years the all-time-high in occupancy rate year-round. No seasonality. Everybody is happy,” said Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Carlo B. Suarez.

The six-month closure of Boracay, the opening of new Mactan International Airport (T2), were just two of the news makers in tourism in the first semester of 2018. The good news continued with the opening of Panglao Bohol International Airport, which is also seen to benefit Cebu and the region’s fate in tourism, Suarez said.

Cebu saw the throng of foreign and domestic tourists who have spent their holiday vacations in different islands in Cebu and Bohol and other provinces in Central Visayas, while the world’s favorite island Boracay was on rehabilitation from March to October in 2018.

True to what stakeholders were projecting at the start of 2018, Cebu had a stream of opportunities during the year wherein tourism delivered the promises and even surpassed the expectations of players.

The avalanche of Chinese tourists during the year is another source of growth stream that made tourism the “star industry” for Cebu, overtaking other traditional growth drivers like exports, manufacturing and recently outsourcing.

“Tourism has become Cebu’s star industry. One tourist—provides at least 2 employment. For the longest time relied on BPOs,” noted Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Stanley Go.

According to Go, while BPO is taking its pace in terms of growth, due to the effects of US government’s thrust in protectionism, tourism easily made its move and took over to sustain employment and economic flow of Cebu.

For years, Cebu has been known for its tourism charm, but it never saw a stunning stroke of growth until 2018, added Suarez whose family owns the Cebu Grand Hotel and Axis Entertainment Avenue on Escario Street.

From January to September 2018 alone, Cebu posted a 22 percent growth in foreign national arrivals, a record sourced from Mactan International Airport statistics. This does not count the arrivals of tourists who utilized other mode of entries to Cebu such as sea transports, among others, Tamano reported.

The introduction of more direct flights from China, and other countries in 2018 was a remarkable immediate effect of T2 opening in July.

Tamano said the year only just provided a glimpse of Cebu’s “fame and fortune” in tourism. The next years will have their own interesting tales to tell.

Many Firsts

In 2018, Cebu also brought about many firsts in terms of tourism destinations and facilities. The first 170-hectare Safari Park in Carmen was opened. It is so far the largest Safari and adventure park in the Philippines, if not in Asia.

Recently, the first Snow World in this part of the country, officially opened along with the opening of some facilities in the first integrated theme park in Calajoan, Minglanilla, Cebu called “Belmont One.”

Belmont One is a P500 million project, situated on a 3.5-hectare property, which will have a hotel, restaurants, retail and shopping centers, and a world-class theme park called as Anjo World.

The biggest city hotel was also officially launched in 2018, the 668 room-Bai Hotel Cebu. It is so far the largest hotel within Metro Cebu in terms of accommodation.

“Cebu tourism made its biggest smile in 2018,” remarked Tamano affirming the private stakeholders’ bullish year review of the industry.

The concerns on traffic, room-shortage, environmental compliance among hotel/resort operators dissolved into minority, as glitters of opportunities and showcase of high performance overpowered them.

“Tourism is the superstar industry for 2018 in Cebu. We cannot deny its presence and effects it does to employment, retail, and the province’s overall economy in general,” affirmed businessman and former MCCI president Glenn Soco.

While Cebu officially stepped into tourism stardom in 2018, it is also facing bigger responsibilities that come with it, specifically as it heads towards high geared projections in 2019.


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