A new strategy to attract more cruises to the Philippines is underway, focused on adding and improving port facilities, easing entry procedures, creating exciting tour packages and offering new destinations.
This comes on the heels of Star Cruises’ 2,400-pax Superstar Virgo making Manila its homeport – the first cruise ship to do so – from March to May. It will sail on 6D/5N journeys to Laoag in Ilocos Norte, Hong Kong and Kaohsiung in Taiwan.
Tourism undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr, who also heads the Cruise Tourism Development Committee of the Philippines, said a key element of the strategy is to build new dedicated cruise facilities, 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 (dock at) the Philippines,” explained Bengzon.
Commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development and the Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT), the draft cruise strategy presented by Chart Management Consulting also identified developments in the Turquoise Triangle linking Manila, Boracay and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.
A potential cruise destination in the north of Luzon, where ships departing East Asian hubs can arrive after one day at sea, was also pinpointed in the strategy.
Arnie Bayag, Travelexperts’ consultant, welcomes the plan and called for the prioritisation of port upgrades, including those in the Turquoise Triangle.
Bayag further pointed out that Romblon in the Visayas has a deep harbour but no proper cruise facilities, something that the Philippine Port Authority should pay attention to.
Meanwhile, with Superstar Virgo making 15 voyages from Manila, the DoT expects a growth in port calls in the Philippines this year to at least 105 with 86,000 pax, up from 72 port calls with 72,350 pax last year.
Travel consultants also expressed optimism about demand for Superstar Virgo’s Golden Triangle Journey itinerary.
Marlene Insigne, manager, tours division, Southeast Travel Corp, expects even clients from the US flying to Manila to join the cruise.
She told TTG Asia: “I’m very positive this will be a great start for Philippine cruise tourism (as we open up to larger ships).”