Cebu Targets More Cruises And English-learning Foreign Tourists

The Philippines’ island of Cebu welcomed late August and early September some 100 meetings of APEC, which brought over 3,000 delegates to the island. The last big international meeting was back to 2007 when Cebu hosted the ASEAN Summit.

APEC hosting was seen as an opportunity for Philippines Department of Tourism (DOT) to present and reassess Cebu’s tourism strategy.

Talking during a press briefing to local media, DOT Regional Director Rowena Lu Y. Montecillo indicated that Central Visayas should reach a target of 4.4 million travellers by the end of the year. Until August, Cebu and the surrounding islands already welcomed 2.2 million visitors.

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To further strengthen the region’s appeal, the DOT is now looking to promote the province as a cruise destination as well as an education tourism destination thanks to ESL promotion (English as Second Language).

Being a main maritime hub for the Philippines and with many beaches and resorts, Cebu looks ideal for the development of cruise tourism. Unfortunately, the island lacks proper facilities, an infrastructure problem that the destination shares with most other destinations in the country. A situation acknowledged by the DOT.

“The Cebu Port Authority is looking into upgrading international cruises’ facilities. CPT is looking at another place or another town very near Cebu City to transfer all the cargo ships to make space for the Cebu International Port to really concentrate on cruise liners,” Montecillo highlighted.

Pier 6 at Cebu International Port would then be exclusively reserved for international cruise visitors. However, the pier’s transformation depends now of the government’s approval for the construction of a new international container port in Consolacion, near Cebu City. The facility would then be the new maritime hub for freight.

According to tourism authorities,many cruise liners have already expressed interest to turn Cebu as a cruise base, as the island offers attractive tour packages, good attractions and shopping facilities for overnight visitors and can be a gateway to the other surrounding islands. So far, Cebu welcomes only 25,000 international cruise visitors a year.

Education tourism is also picking up as highlighted by Mrs. Montecillo who noticed the emergence of many ESL schools in Cebu. Marketing strategy for education tourism started back to 2004 when the DOT, Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Immigration and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority signed a memorandum of agreement.

The Philippines is targeting five major markets for ESL,including China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Russia. In Cebu, Japanese learning English are on the increase with a new Japanese-owned English training centre for English opened earlier this year.

Best assets for ESL in Cebu are relatively cheaper costs than other ESL destinations (Singapore, Malaysia or Australia/New Zealand) and the sense of warmth and welcome of Filipinos. Cebu needs now to be better sold by ESL associations to foreign visitors.

A last important issue is air access to Cebu. While the airport is currently getting an upgrade, Mactan Cebu International Airport saw recently a surge for new international flights. They are now additional non stop flights to Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo in Japan while Philippine Airlines plans to offer a direct flight to Los Angeles. Cebu however still lacks non-stop flights to Taiwan, Beijing or Shanghai, Australia or even Thailand.