Philippines vies to become global cruise destination

MANILA, Philippines - Philippines' Department of Tourism is in talks with some of the biggest cruise companies in the world as it seeks to position the Philippines as a global cruise ship destination.

Philippines vies to become global cruise destination

MANILA, Philippines – Philippines’ Department of Tourism is in talks with some of the biggest cruise companies in the world as it seeks to position the Philippines as a global cruise ship destination.

“We already completed the preliminary paper on cruise tourism in the Philippines. The Philippines can be strongly positioned for cruise tourism in two aspects. First is getting international cruise lines to increase calls in Manila and other ports. But we also hope to see more foreign cruise ships home-ported and doing inter-island cruises,” Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr. said in a forum hosted by the Futuristics Center last Friday.

“Our distinct advantage is that we offer almost endless opportunities for inter-island cruise. It’s something we as an industry can increase,” he added.

In a separate interview, Bengzon disclosed that potential areas where the big cruise lines could dock included Manila, Boracay, Puerto Princesa and Subic. For the expedition type of cruises, which carry 300 or less passengers, the Philippines can also offer Hundred Islands, Kalanggaman, Romblon and Coron, among other islands.

“What we want in the short term is to increase the number of cruise ships calling port in the Philippines. But strategically, we stand to benefit more if we are able to convince these cruise ships to set up operations in the Philippines. We also want to have stronger presence in the major cruise events,” Bengzon added.

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Last year, the Philippine envoy to Washington disclosed that three of the world’s leading cruise companies have expressed interest to help develop the Philippines as a cruise ship destination. Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia Jr. identified in his report to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario the three as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Meanwhile, Bengzon admitted that they would also want to see released the revenue regulations that would allow the granting of incentives to tourism projects.

“We have stated our position. The guidelines are not yet out. But the best time to get investments is now, with the Philippines getting credit-rating upgrades, improving brand equity, good [tourist arrival] numbers from different markets including the traditional and opportunity markets. So for me, if there’s a hotel group that wants to invest in an area that does not provide incentives, let’s take a closer look on how to give it rather than lose that investment,” Bengzon explained.

A revenue regulation was supposed to be issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue to authorize the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) to grant a package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to investors in tourism projects.

In an interview last month, Aileen C. Clemente, executive vice president of the Tourism Congress, stressed the need for the BIR to issue the much-awaited regulation as this was critical to further boosting the country’s tourism industry.

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