Fort Lauderdale, Florida —The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Province of Aklan on Tuesday clinched an important business deal that would further open the Western Visayas region to the global cruising market.
Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr. signed the agreement in behalf of Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo. Also present were Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd. (RCCL) VP for New Commercial Development John Tercek.
The agreement among DOT, Province of Aklan, and RCCL stipulates that the American global cruise company based in Miami will be providing all the necessary technical and financial support towards the building of a purpose-built terminal either in Caticlan or Boracay. It is still under negotiation, however, if the expected homeport for RCCL will be open to other commercial vessels as well.
“We are excited over the prospects of the Royal Carribean Lines getting more involved in the development and promotion of Caticlan/ Boracay for cruise tourism. We are confident that the strategic partnership will result in more ships calling on Boracay, and pave the way for eventual home port operations”.
Bengzon is in Fort Lauderdale to lead this year’s Philippine delegation to the Seatrade Cruise Conference (SCC) the ended on March 16 at the Broward County Convention Center. SCC is the leading annual global business-to-business event in the cruise industry, which provides a platform to discuss topics and issues in cruising led by top executives, industry experts and thought-leaders.
The Philippines’ ninth year at Seatrade also features a mixture of old and the latest cruise destinations in the country such as Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, Kalanggaman in Leyte, Coron in Northern Palawan, Romblon, and Bicol region for expedition cruises that carry less than 300 passengers.
“We are seeing a major shift in the major cruise market. There will be more ships to be deployed in Southeast Asia, and we are hoping that the Philippines will get more than its fair share of the market,” the head of Philippine delegation said, eyeing the extended deployment of a number of large cruise ships to the country as a crucial factor in positioning the Philippines as a compelling and attractive value for money transit port.
“The big news for us this week is that we will finally have the major cruise ship, the Superstar Virgo of Singapore’s Star Cruises, homeporting in the PH. And we are hoping this will be the start of other homeporting of cruise vessels in the region,” Bengzon added.
Tercek has only good words to say about this newfound partnership. According to him, the Philippines has a great potential to become a cruise hub in the region. “The Philippines is the future Caribbean of Asia,” the cruise maverick went on to say.
Governor Miraflores proudly shared that residents of Aklan were quick to throw in their approval of the plan as they stand to benefit from the new economic opportunities it would generate such as employment and business ventures.
Boracay is the Philippines’ third largest cruise destination with 29 calls over the last four years. It is topped by Puerto Princesa accumulating the most aggregate visits with 39 transits and 16 overnights, and is followed by Manila, with 48 transits but only 5 overnights.
On the whole, international cruise calls to the Philippines have been growing at an average rate of 27.8% over the past four years, from 56 calls in 2014 to 70 calls the following year, and 72 calls in 2016. This year, the Philippines expects over a hundred port calls bringing in an estimated 122,000 cruise passengers.