As Philippines cruise tourism grows, so have its challenges

World Dream docked at the Port of Manila

With cruise tourism in the Philippines on an upward growth trajectory, the emergence of this sector is bringing along with it growth opportunities as well as challenges.

Tourism undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr revealed that there were 190 cruise calls this year, up from 140 the previous year.

Boracay, for instance, is one destination that is if continued to accommodate mega cruise ships with more than 1,000 passengers, it might exceed the tourist carrying capacity which was recently imposed on the popular island.

World Dream docked at the Port of Manila

When interviewed on the sidelines of the Kain Na (Let’s Eat) culinary tourism launch in Davao last Friday, Bengzon Jr said that Boracay’s local government has to decide whether it would continue to allow large cruise ships to dock at the island.

A Boracay-based tourism member added that other concerns the island had was the lack a proper cruise terminal, the impact on coral reefs when the ships drop anchor, and low earnings from shore excursions as cruise passengers do not stay overnight and spend lesser than longer-staying tourists.

But Travel Plus International’s sales and reservations manager Tonette De Vera offered differing views, indicating that during shore excursions, cruise passengers would usually lunch on and buy souvenirs on Boracay – and other similar island destinations – before returning to the ship in the afternoon.

Destinations should therefor roll out more creative offerings to capture greater spending from cruise visitors, urged de Vera.

Moreover, word-of-mouth endorsement and social media postings by cruise passengers to Boracay and similar destinations are valuable marketing opportunities for the country, she added.

Cruising also helps to promote new and lesser visited destinations, particularly for smaller expedition-type ships of up to 300 pax, which typically go to places inaccessible to mega ships, noted Benjie Bernal, tour operations manager of Sharp Travel Services.

For example, Kalanggaman Island in Leyte became more popular when his company included it in the cruising itinerary several years ago. Other recent additions include Calaguas Island in Camarines Norte and Batanes.

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