Cebu - not just a pretty face
Cebu City in the Philippines is not just a pretty face… It is a major hub for business and conventions, as well as tourism. It is the second largest city in the Philippines and is also the most accessible place in the Philippines, with more domestic air and sea linkages than Manila. Cebu Pacific, Philippines fastest-growing airline, named itself after the island.
On a recent trip to interview the governor, I was overwhelmed by the changes that had taken place since my last visit in 2010. Apart from the obvious visible changes, such as an improved airport taxi system, the addition of new resort hotels and more fine dining options, there are the hidden statistics.
According to the Cebu Investment Promotion department, Cebu’s growth rate has held close to an astounding 20 percent - considerably higher than the rest of the country. They also highlighted that its labor force is orientated toward non-agricultural lines, and in sync with its growth, is one of the most productive in the country.
Naturally Cebu has long been known for its beautiful beaches, 5-star resorts, and deep cultural base dating back to its Spanish colonial days over 500 years ago. Magellan died here and the city boasts one of the oldest churches and streets in SE Asia.
From the colonial to the new, Radisson Hotels and Resorts have taken on their first Philippine venture, The Radisson Blu, which is downtown and adjacent to the Port and only 15 minutes from the airport. It is a joint venture between SM Holdings, one of the most dynamic of Philippine companies, with its major activity being retail development through its department store and malls. It was incorporated on January 6, 1994 by Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur Henry Sy to develop, conduct, operate, and maintain SM commercial shopping centers and all businesses related thereto, such as the lease of commercial spaces in the compound of shopping centers. It went public on July 5, 1994 and subsequently grew to become the largest company listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange in terms of revenue.
The Radisson Blu is adjacent to Cebu’s largest mall, the SM Mall, and the concept works well.
The hotel was my business base in Cebu City and was a pleasant change from some of the other more tired city hotels. The rooms are a delight, as sound proofing is taken seriously, and I was able to enjoy one of the quietest nights in a hotel in many years.
Classical music and jazz nights bring the lobby alive in the evening. Food is also taken very seriously, as new General Manager, Lyle Lewis, a gourmand himself, strives to make the restaurant one of the trendiest spots in town for food. If the buffets are anything to go by, he has certainly succeeded.
Radisson continues to expand in the Philippines and will open two more hotels this year. The hotels will be north of Cebu, in Manila, and south of Cebu in Mindanao. According to Mr. Lewis, positive growth is on the charts for the Philippines, and his properties, strategically located, will reap the benefits of this upward trend.