Philippines mulls cruise tourism development plan amid Boracay concerns

Cruise ship at Boracay, Philippines

The Philippines may have to revisit its cruise tourism development plan amid the ongoing overtourism challenge in Boracay, as the destination looks at reducing the number of cruise ship calls due to their environmental impact and low tourist expenditure.

Boracay is looking at reducing the number of cruise ships calling on the island, as tourism stakeholders have noted the low income from cruise passengers. They added that the passengers crowded out the beaches, and did not spend their tourism dollar at establishments such as hotels and restaurants. In addition, there was the question of ships’ impact on the environment including coral reefs.

Cruise ship at Boracay, Philippines

“The whole Boracay experience has compelled us to take a closer look at our development models – particularly for resort destinations or destinations that are getting higher (tourists) volume than the others,” shared Philippines’ tourism undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr.

Bengzon cited the need for an “optimum mix between headcount and revenue” in cruise tourism. This is in light of the revenue per passenger of expedition ships usually being higher than mega ships, but the latter help to boost arrival numbers.

In addition, expedition ships offer a “low-density, high-value experience” with no more than 700 passengers. They are also compact and less crowded than ships with thousands of passengers. Such cruise ships also have greater flexibility, and can visit smaller destinations.

Bill Barnett, managing director of consultancy C9 Hotelworks, said: “Cruise ships should be a key part of Philippine tourism, and it’s a natural fit. But it needs planning, infrastructure and the ability to handle mass movements of people.

“For Cebu, Davao and Manila, it’s a no brainer given these can support (large numbers of visitors), but once you start talking Boracay and Palawan, it’s a questioning of having proper handling capacity and port management.”

Barnett believes the Philippine government should seriously consider cruise tourism, but urged them to develop the sector responsibly.

“So much of the Philippines is domestic-led or mass market, i.e. China and South Korea. It’s hard to understand the push back. Go to Tahiti, the Seychelles or other romantic island destinations and (see how) they thrive on the (cruise) sector,” Barnett added.

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