The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) looks forward to a hike in the country’s volume of tourists with the arrivals of international cruise ships to the Philippines.
Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano shared that the cruise influx will boost local tourism and subsequently bring benefits to the local economy, such as tourism-led business ventures and employment.
“In addition to our chartered flights, the cruise ship tours would help drive tourism growth by providing a competitive opportunity for affluent travelers from the US, Europe and Asia to visit the country, see our attractions, and recognize our economic potentials,” said Durano.
“Cruise companies venturing to the Philippines for the first time boost our country’s confidence of now being in the radar. This opens up more possibilities of other ships visiting our shores,” he added.
Among the cruise companies expected to bring guests to the country is Costa Cruises, Italy’s largest tourism group and Europe’s number one cruise company.
As much as 22,000 tourists are expected to visit the country until November this year as the cruise company expands its local cruise program and begins regular calls to Manila with its three ships, Costa Allegra, Costa Classica, and Costa Romantica, through its ground handler Travel People.
Costa Classica will call on the port of Manila a total of 11 times for the year, and it recently brought 1,300 guests to Manila when it docked at South Harbor for the first time.
Another cruise company, England’s Acromas Shipping Limited, also recently included the country in its Asian tour itinerary.
Its vessel, MS Spirit of Adventure, through its ground handler Blue Horizons Travel and Tours, Inc., recently brought over 300 British and French nationals to the country, in a 16-day tour of Asia.
The country had the longest itinerary in the tour, as the ship docked in four different ports of call that included Cebu, Boracay, Manila, and La Union.
“The cruise industry’s growing recognition of the country’s numerous island experiences and shore excursions translates to a greater number of cruise ships and an even greater number of international tourists in the coming days,” said Durano.
Over 700 passengers of various nationalities also joined the first Asian tour of MV Voyages of Discovery, also of Acromas Shipping Limited, and were engaged in the local trip itinerary that included, among others, tours in Old Manila, Pagsanjan Falls, Tagaytay and Corregidor Island.
Luxury passenger cruise ship MS Amadea will also be calling on the port of Manila this March, with 700 German passengers, as well as the Silversea Whisper, with 384 guests; and Regent Seven Seas Voyager, carrying more than 600 guests of various nationalities.
According to Tourism Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, Jr., “The Philippines could soon become the choice cruise destination in Asia among travelers, owing to our natural island attractions and the continued efforts in accommodating the local cruise expansion.”
Marketing Head for DOT Team Europe Verna Buensuceso shared, “We always get positive feedback from the cruises which dock here; they remember the Philippines for our warm and reception and our unique culture.”
Long-time cruise passengers also note that their experience was all the more made memorable because of the hospitable and excellent crew; majority of which are Filipinos.
At the recent port of call in Manila of MV Discovery, a UK-based ship carrying almost 600 passengers from different countries in Europe and Asia, 237 Filipinos (of the 300 crew members) are happily employed, from nurses and bar managers to performers, to technical staff.
Judi Helsby, a retired teacher from England who decided to go on a cruise vacation shared, “This cruise won’t be successful without the Filipinos. They all make us feel like family, and now we can’t wait to explore their home, the Philippines’ many islands.”
Buensuceso said, “Excellent service rendered by the Filipino crew members truly make the experience more worthwhile for the guests. This in turn, gets the tourists curious about our country. We commend them for the quality of work that they put in, and regard them as partners in telling the world about our country.”
—RP as destination of choice for cruises
On the subject of marketing the country to more cruises, Jarque said, “We continue our efforts to promote the country and become part of more cruise ships’ itineraries. In close coordination with our tourism offices abroad, travel activities through cruise lines keep us excited and remain among our areas of priority,”
He disclosed that the country will participate in upcoming key maritime events this year; namely the Seatrade Cruise Shipping in Miami, Florida, and the Tanker Industry Conference in Singapore –- two of the definitive business exhibitions in the seafaring industry.
The Tourism Department is also closely coordinating with travel groups and the private sector to work on projects that will complement these cruise tours such as the development of port infrastructure, support facilities and services, and potential shore excursions.