MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The anticipated 139 port of calls from top cruise lines signals the readiness of the Philippines to claim the position as one of the regional cruise centers in Asia.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco made the pronouncement on February 15 as she welcomed 317 guests and 415 mix of Filipino and foreign crew aboard the luxurious Silver Spirit at the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal, Manila South Harbor in a show of support to the boosting of the cruise tourism industry in the Philippines.
The DOT-National Capital Region ensured that guests experienced the world-renowned Filipino hospitality as well as the country’s biggest colorful festivals, the Ati-Atihan of Kalibo, Aklan and the Higantes of Angono, Rizal, upon arrival of the passengers. The classic song “Hinahanap Hanap Kita Manila” was also played by the Banda Kawayan orchestra to give guests a memorable grand welcome reception in the Philippine capital.
They will be touring around the landmarks of Manila, including the Spanish-built and historic Walled City of Intramuros and outlying destinations like Tagaytay before the ship leaves for the country’s marble capital-Romblon, then on to Coron.
Silver Spirit is one of the luxury cruise ships of Silversea Cruises which prides itself with one of the highest space to guest ratios at sea, giving tourists a “superlative onboard adventure.”
“The arrival of this cruise into this port in Manila signals the resurgence of the cruise tourism industry as it is one of the first cruise ships that has docked in the Philippines. This signals confidence as well in travel and tourism into the Philippines and we’re very grateful for the support of the City of Manila to open up its harbor to our visitors from all over the world and we’re hopeful that this arrival may signal many more in the year to come,” the tourism chief said.
“We are very grateful to our President Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos, Jr. for signaling to the world that the Philippines is open and ready for tourism and investments. With his policies geared toward making tourism a pillar of economic growth, we are more than ready and willing to support the operation of ultra-luxury cruise ships like the Silver Spirit,” Secretary Frasco added.
Philippines as a regional cruise center in Asia
The anticipated docking of 139 cruise ships is a 36.27 increase compared to the 102 port of calls the Philippines received in 2019. Among the luxury cruise lines that are expected to visit the country included Seabourn, Silver Sea, Regent, MSC Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Heritage Expeditions, Carnival Cruise, Costa Crociere, Coral Expedition, Holland America, and AIDA Cruises.
Citing the DOT’s National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy and Action Plan, the tourism chief said the goal of the Department is to increase cruise ship calls to various ports and islands throughout the country by creating excellent guest experiences and propelling economic benefits.
“Cruise tourism is one of our priority areas of development in the DOT as we look to expand our tourism portfolio to cater to all market segments,” Secretary Frasco noted.
“Our vision is to make the Philippines an attractive and diverse cruise destination offering high levels of customer satisfaction and cost effective deployment for cruise lines operating from major home ports in Asia,” she said.
And with the goal to expand the reach of the Filipino brand of service excellence (FBSE) across the world, the tourism chief added: “We will develop the Philippines as a major regional cruise center in Asia that supplies not only cruise ship experiences but also crew training, crewing, cruise line business outsourcing and cruise ship maintenance services in Asia.”
Cruise ships, a generator of tourism employment for Filipinos
The Silver Spirit is the third cruise ship to arrive in the Philippines following the cruise calls of the Seabourn Encore carrying 512 passengers and 482 crew, and Silver Shadow with 320 passengers and 288 crew.
In an interview with the media, Secretary Frasco underscored that the arrival of cruise ships is highly anticipated for the tourism industry after long sea cruise voyages were halted by the pandemic for almost three years. Not only did it affect the revenue flows for the industry but also the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos working in cruise ships. Filipino seafarers and tourism frontliners made up about fifty percent of the three cruise lines that have arrived in the country.
”181 of the over 400 crew in this cruise ship are Filipinos, signaling the Filipino Brand of Service Excellence that Filipino workers are known for all over the world and so we’re very proud that this cruise that hosts different nationalities is being given a memorable experience through the Filipino brand of hospitality,” she explained.
“Nagpapasalamat din po tayo sa mga oportunidad na ganito dahil nabibigyan ‘yung ating mga kababayan ng oportunidad na mabalik sa kanila yung lahat ng nawala dahil sa pandemiya at sa iba’t ibang mga kalamidad. We’re very proud and thankful also to our Filipino crew, our Overseas Filipino Workers who continue to be tourism ambassadors for the Philippines,” the tourism chief added.
Revenues from Cruise Tourism
The expected Philippines cruise dockings across 46 island destinations, including Manila, in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, with around 117 thousand passengers arriving For Manila alone is estimated to rake in millions of dollars in revenues.
“The average spend is 100 dollars per cruise call per person and this year, we’re anticipating a minimum of 117,000 passengers across 139 ports of call. While these may be estimated revenues, this shows the downstream effect not only upon our national government revenues but also upon our local government revenues. We have several islands as well that they will be visiting including Apo Reef, Balabac Island, Biri Island, Bohol, Boracay of course our gem, Claveria, Capul Island, Cebu and Central Philippines, Coron in Palawan as well as Puerto Princesa,” said the tourism chief.
Meanwhile, In Manila alone, 34 cruise ships are scheduled to arrive.
“It’s a very great opportunity for the City of Manila, for all other people not only local tourists but also international tourists to rediscover different areas or destinations here in Manila. [It] is the hub for history and culture in our country and it’s about time that all areas in the city be discovered, not only Intramuros, Luneta, or even Binondo but all other areas. This is a way for the Department of Tourism and the City of Manila to work hand in hand so it’s a great opportunity for us,” said Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna who was also present at the welcome reception for Silver Spirit passengers.