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Philippines adopts National Cruise Tourism Strategy

The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) has completed its first Cruise Tourism Development Strategy under the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


Ted Blamey, Principal of CHART Management Consultants was tapped by USAID and DOT to lead the team in undertaking an extensive field work, interviews, analysis, and direction-setting in 2015 to finalize the cruise strategy. Joining him were CHART’s Associates, Capt. Luigi Nappa and Rod Davies.


To date, the Philippines has largely been undiscovered, with its more than 7,000 islands providing many excellent opportunities for cruise tourism. The Philippines offers rich diversity – from ancient Spanish heritage, culture and history through bustling metropolitan centers to pristine beaches and stunning scenery. "We also boast of world-class shopping, dining, gaming, and perhaps the warmest welcomes on the planet,” said Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. who heads the newly formed Cruise Tourism Committee for the Philippines.


In 2015, the Philippines attracted 52 port calls for an 18 percent rise from last year’s total of 44. Cruise passenger volume also rose to 69,802 in 2015, up 16 percent from 60,183 passengers in full-year 2014. The growth in cruise tourism in the country is attributed to the strong support from the government and private sectors, as well as the enthusiasm of major cruise lines to visit not only one island, but several islands across the Philippine archipelago.


“As a key element of the strategy, we are determined to build new dedicated cruise facilities, most 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 spend time in the Philippines. Once here, they can achieve outstanding port density with efficient cruising speeds,” said Undersecretary Bengzon.


The Cruise Strategy also identified developments in the Turquoise Triangle that linking the popular tourist destinations of Manila, Boracay, and Puerto Princesa in Palawan. The potential for new cruise destinations in the north of Luzon, where ships departing East Asian hubs can arrive the next day, has likewise been pinpointed in the plan.


“Developing the Philippines will be great for the Asian cruise industry” said Ted Blamey, CHART Principal. “As the mainstream Asian source markets begin to develop, slightly longer cruise durations will become popular. This is especially because they will allow much more diverse itineraries, offer distinctively different destinations and optimize winter deployment. The DOT is to be congratulated for their foresight in commissioning the strategy. It is perfect timing”, he added.


The Philippine Cruise Strategy project originated from the recommendation at the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Forum in Manila in 2014. “The active participation and sage advice of the CLIA members and the USAID executives was hugely beneficial. And without the enthusiastic support of many DOT executives and buy-in from the government and private sector, this work would not have been possible. The Philippines is going to be a cruise destination to watch!” said Mr. Blamey.

“We are confident that this comprehensive strategy and associated action plans will set a course for the Philippines to become a much more prominent cruise destination in the future. The strategy fits perfectly into the National Tourism Development Plan and aligns with the country's commitment to enhance its attractiveness to the world’s cruise lines,” Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr., who is championing the new direction within the Philippine government, said.


With the implementation commencing this year, "Our investments in infrastructure, streamlining of regulatory services, and development of attractions through close coordination with stakeholders will definitely excite the interest of cruise lines and their guests. The Philippines expects not only to dramatically increase the number of transit calls, but also position itself as a much-needed alternative homeport between Singapore and China/Hong Kong,” Secretary Jimenez enthused.


Photo from left Philippine Ports Authority Engr. Reynaldo Parafina, CHART Management Consultants Capt Luigi Nappa, Mr. Rod Davies and Mr. Ted Blamey, Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr., Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya, Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon, Jr., Tourism Undersecretary Maria Victoria V. Jasmin, USAID Chief of Party Enrico L. Basilio, Transportation Undersecretary Catherine Gonzales, and Tourism Assistant Secretary Rolando Canizal


To further encourage more Middle East travelers to the Philippines, PDOT Middle East office is offering the “Kids Stay Free” package, which has been designed exclusively for families (both nationals and expatriates), living in the G.C.C. and offers exceptional value.


The campaign packages provide two children per family under the age of 11 with an exciting array of activities, food, accommodations and other experiences all on a complimentary basis. Additionally the packages allow families to twin both the Philippines capital Manila with another exotic Philippine destination such as Cebu, Palawan, Boracay, Bohol, Davao or Bicol, allowing for both an urban and idyllic getaway experience. 


The Philippines’ no visa requirement for G.C.C. and many other nationals, plus it’s many popular shopping experiences, tranquil beaches and numerous family-friendly attractions has resulted in an increasing number of G.C.C. residents choosing to make the Philippines their holiday destination of choice.


Accordingly to the latest statistics available a total of 65,642 visitors from the G.C.C. visited the Philippines between January and September 2015, resulting in a 12% increase compared to 2014 figures for the same period. Amongst those, the number from Saudi Arabia was the highest at 40,453 travelers, which was an increase of 17% compared to the year before. Visitors from the United Arab Emirates were the next highest, followed by visitors from Kuwait.

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