Increasing tourists from China, India and western economies is good because these travelers stay longer and spend more.
This approach was raised by Prof. Fernando Fajardo in his briefing of a Cebu Tourism Roadmap for 2012 to 2016 drafted by a coalition of 14 Cebu business chambers.
Fajardo’s main recommendation was to create a Cebu-wide tourism body to lead the planning and steering of Cebu’s tourism development, ideally within the year.
Fajardo presented the proposed roadmap to different stakeholders at the Marclo Polo Plaza for feedback.
“The body or council will take responsibility in leading, coordinating and planning the development of tourism in Cebu,” said Fajardo, executive director of the Cebu Business Club.
In response, Jenny Franco, Cebu chapter president of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies in the Philippines, said she agreed with most points of the draft roadmap.
She said the coalition needs to address the downgrading of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to category 2 because it dampens the volume of European and American tourists coming to the country.
Franco agreed that Cebu has to look at other long-haul markets like the United States, Europe, Middle East and Australia aside from Asian neighbors. “We have tourists from Australia who come here for medical tourism and stay longer than the Koreans. On the average they stay for two weeks and even four weeks while most Koreans stay for only four days at the most,” said Franco.
The coalition, under its Partnership for Better Infrastructure, plans to finish the roadmap before the year ends and present it to the governrment for action.
Fajardo said having a Cebu-wide tourism body would help ensure the road map is executed and well coordinated.
He said Cebu can target bringing in 4 million tourists by 2016 compared with the current 1.6 million visiotrs.
The draft roadmap has five key strategies: product development; infrastructure development; marketing and promotion; outreach and public involvement; and organization development.
The “product” referred to is Cebu.
“For the first strategy, the idea is to build on Cebu’s rich historical heritage and natural attractions but we also need new products and new local destinations,” said Fajardo.
Fajardo named six clusters based on what Cebu offers.
Mainland Metro Cebu is for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events), historical events, educational, medical and retirement tourism.
Other clusters are Mactan-Olango island, southern Cebu, north Cebu-Bantayan and Malapascua Islands, midwest Cebu and Camotes-Pilar Islands.
World class infrastructure, like a better international airport, is needed to draw more tourists here as well as improved seaports, roads and bridges.
“This way we can increase the visitor experience through safe, fast and convenient travel, fast communication, quality water, and reliable power supply,” said Fajardo.
For marketing and promotion, he said the focus would be on brand recognition of Cebu as a prime tourist destination based on quality and varied offerings of tourism products and local destinations.
He said there was also a need to widen the market and look beyond drawing tourists other than Koreans and Japanese.
Developing a “culture of tourism” means getting people to see the imporatance of tourism to the economy and overall qualty of life in Cebu.
He said this kind of education is needed at the community level and can be achieve by involving citiznes in tourism planning, investment programming, implementation and monitoring.
Some feedback from business leaders:
*Mandaue City can develop factory tours because the city has the most number of factory outlets in Cebu, said Philip Tan, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
*Using social meda to promote Cebu would speed up awareness, said Prduencia Gesta, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
*Concrete steps and plans are needed to develop the “culture of tourism” said Phineas Alburo, new chairman of the Cebu City Tourism Commission.
*Collaboration is key.
“We urge others to sit down with the rest of us like hotels, airlines, restaurants, travel agencies. We can all work together to push for our tourism,” saiid Samuel Chioson, former CCCI president.
In 2011, the total number of tourists to Cebu reached 1.9 million of which 833,441 were foreign visitors. The bulk of 1.08 million were domestic travelers.
Koreans were the largest group (376,524) followed by Japanese (157,413) and Americans (71,488), Chinese (24,873) and Australians (22,100).
In a recent interview, Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa director of sales and marketing Dominic Dorol said that the property, which is a Korean brand, will start promoting the resort to Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as Australia, an emerging market.
“As of now, Australians only see Phuket and Bali as a destination. We should start promoting our products so that we can see more Australians coming here,” said Dorol.