Cebu tourism players target Middle East market

The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) is hoping for a “good pick-up” in arrivals to Cebu from the Middle Eat this year, after its promotion during a Philippine Tourism Road Show last March.

Sumilon Island in Cebu

The DOT and several hotel and resort properties in the country conducted the road show in the Gulf Region, covering Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

DOT 7 Director Maria Rica Bueno said the Middle East market is one of the emerging markets being tapped by the department to intensify the country’s presence in the global tourism industry.

She said the road show organizers aimed to help the country, especially Cebu, gain a better position as a new destination for Middle East travelers.

”The Middle East market in the past years has shown enormous growth potential,” Bueno said.

According to the World Tourism Organization, outbound travel from the Middle grew by 10.6 percent from 20000 to 2007.

The number of visitors from the Middle East to the Philippines has likewise posted double-digit average growth rates from 2004 to 2008.

Arrivals to Cebu from the Middle East grew by 57.01 percent, on the average, from 2005 to 2009. The number of arrivals jumped from 4,711 in 2008 to 10,803 last year.

DOT said this can be attributed to the surge of education tourists.

Bueno added that air access to these countries is viable as six airlines provide direct flights to Manila from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait, Doha and Riyadh.

”As for Cebu, we have direct flights from Doha to Cebu thrice a week,” she said.

Seeing the potentials of this new market, Ma. Cheryl Anuada of Qatar Airways added the airline is looking at increasing its flight frequency to Doha.

In this new market, the DOT hopes to attract leisure travelers, students, families and medical tourists.

”This market is something that the private sector should prepare for,” said Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino general manager Marco Protacio.

Cebu Parklane International Hotel general manager Cenlyn Manguilimotan added Cebu “is a marketable destination because tourists who come here can choose the city or resort setting, or both.”

Costabella Tropical Beach Hotel sales and marketing manager Marilou Gica said promotions such as the recent road show will boost Cebu and the country’s image as an international destination, not just an, exporter of labor.

The road show was DOT’s first major sales mission to the region.

The Cebu delegation included representatives from DOT 7 and some hotels and resorts like Waterfront, Cebu Parklane International Hotel, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, and Costabella Tropical Beach Hotel.

DOT 7 is arranging for a familiarization tour for Kuwaiti travel agents and media to Cebu and Bohol on May 13 to 15.

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