Tourism: Cruise tourism a growing niche market

Cruise tourism is one of strategic tourism products identified under the National Tourism Development Plan. It is a niche market being developed by Department of Tourism (DOT), partly through tour packages showcasing world-class natural beauty. Cruise tourists arrival in the country grew to 41,624 passengers in 2013 from 23,857 in 2012, DOT data showed.

The upsurge in cruise passenger arrival is attributed to strong interest from the European and Asian market, the brand campaign to sell the country globally, the accolades received by top destinations, and the Filipino people’s hospitality. The exposure of the Philippines in the global cruise ship industry has been steadily growing, with more cruise ship firms picking the country as one of their destinations. This year, the DOT expects cruise lines to increase their visits to the country to include nontraditional destinations such as Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, Sta. Ana in Cagayan, and Coron Island in Palawan.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, reported recently that three of the world’s leading cruise companies – Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Lines – are developing the Philippines as a cruise-ship destination. The three employ a combined total of 61,700 Filipino crew members, but are hiring more seafarers from the Philippines as they acquire more cruise ships to support their expansion plans.

More than welcoming the visitors, cruise tourism involves developing and upgrading ports, terminals, and facilities to meet international cruise shipping standards. The government is developing eight ports – Davao, Bohol, Boracay, Cebu, Metro Manila, Puerto Princesa, Subic, and Zamboanga – as international hubs for cruise liners.

The country’s proximity to major cruise source markets like China, Japan, and Hong Kong gives it a competitive advantage in the Asia-Pacific region. The DOT is formulating a national cruise development plan. It forged a cooperation agreement with Vietnam on June 26, 2014, for a joint program that would promote key destinations in the two countries.