Philippine constructs more ports to drive cruise tourism 

With 7,641 captivating islands, and numerous cruise activities, including exploring picturesque coastlines and coral reefs, and immersing in local culture and traditions, the Philippines wants to become an enticing haven for cruise enthusiasts, and to cement the status as the next big cruise tourism hub in Asia. 

To achieve this objective, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) actively enhances port facilities nationwide and initiates the development of additional cruise terminals to ensure a safer and more convenient maritime travel experience for tourists on cruise ships.

Acknowledging the government’s efforts in tourism, the Philippines was named “Best Cruise Destination in Asia 2023” at the World Cruise Awards in October held in Dubai, securing the title for the first time, and triumphing over tough competitors, like India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“We are happy and proud that the Philippines has finally received the Best Cruise Destination Award which only recognized the measures being implemented by the national government, through the Department of Tourism and other agencies such as the PPA,” said PPA general manager Jay Santiago.

He expressed optimism that the recent recognition would ignite greater interest and propel growth within the country’s cruise tourism sector.

“We believe that aside from picturesque tourist destinations, it is the rich culture, desirable local delicacies, and the warmth of the Filipino people that entice foreign tourists to visit the Philippines,” he said.

Santiago added that to complement these attractions, PPA also recently underwent the Department of Tourism’s “Filipino Brand of Service” training, attended by their port managers and some frontline personnel.

In September, as part of the World Tourism Day festivities, the PPA kicked off its #PPAsyalTayo campaign to spotlight renowned tourist spots accessible through PPA-managed ports, showcasing delectable cuisine, must-visit attractions, and diverse activities available in these destinations.

Philippines’ grand welcome for the first cruise ship arrival since the pandemic on February 15, 2023.

Welcome party for cruise passengers.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco (in the middle) and Mayor Honey Lacuna (5th from the right) hosted the grand welcome for the first cruise ship arrival since the pandemic.

More ports for cruise tourism

The PPA has begun to construct five new cruise terminals in different key spots throughout the archipelago, to reinforce the country’s status as the best cruise destination in Asia.

The port agency intends to expand its portfolio by constructing five additional cruise terminals at key tourism hubs such as Palawan, Siargao, Camiguin, Boracay, and Puerto Galera to accommodate larger ships, and also to ensure a more comfortable and safe travel experience for passengers.

“On the part of PPA, we have begun constructing terminals dedicated solely to cruise operations, ensuring that our ports can accommodate the large cruise ships we expect to arrive in the near future,” Santiago said. 

“If you notice, the places we are viewing are renowned tourist spots in the Philippines, frequented not only by locals but also by international visitors.” 

The Philippines expects an additional influx of 40,000 foreign tourists through cruise ships until December this year. Since the return of cruise tourism in February, after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, a total of 46,657 cruise passengers had arrived as at the end of September.

At present, the country’s capacity to accommodate cruise ships is limited to just five ports, primarily located in Luzon, including Currimao in Ilocos Norte, Salomague in Ilocos Sur, Manila, El Nido, and Tagbilaran.

Investing in the cruise industry has proven to be a profitable venture due to the large spending habits of cruise travelers, with an average spend of around US$100 per person per port visit.

In 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise ships ferried 213,765 passengers to the Philippines.

Looking forward, the government has projected that the Philippines will have 128 ports of call or cruise calls in 2023 across 33 destinations. These trips are expected to bring in over 101,000 passengers and around 50,000 crew members.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said the significance of the cruise tourism sector extended beyond merely bringing in more tourists to boost government revenues. She outlined the vision of transforming into a regional cruise hub in Asia, offering not only exceptional cruise experiences but also services such as crew training, crewing, cruise line business outsourcing, and maintenance for cruise ships across the Asian region.

Furthermore, Frasco emphasized the significance of cruise ship employment for hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, highlighting the sector’s vital role in providing livelihoods.

All photos credit: Manila Information Office

Top photo: Tourism Secretary Frasco (center) and Manila Mayor Lacuna (shaking hands with a tourist) welcomed over 300 tourists from the United States and Europe aboard the MV Silver Spirit Ship at the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal-Manila South Harbor on February 15, 2023.

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