Korean, flights, rooms help make tourism soar in 2012By Aileen Garcia-Yap
More Korean tourists continue to have more fun in the Cebu as they continue to be the top foreigners visiting the province and the Queen City of the South this year.
The combination of increased tourist arrivals and additional supply of rooms as the factor fueling further expansion of the tourism industry making it still a winner industry this year, said Hans Hauri, president of Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association of Cebu (HRRAC).
He cited Japan, Korea and China as the major tourist groups in Asia that Cebu was wooing.
According to Department of Tourism figures as of August this year, the biggest tourist group came from Korea with a total of 285,390 Koreans coming to Cebu from January this year. Japanese group came in second with 132,974 tourists visited Cebu while there were 22,022 Chinese nationals that came to Cebu as of August.
The growing tourist arrivals helped make the industry to continue being a winner industry for Cebu in 2012.
Overall the visitor arrivals increased which was ably accommodated by the additional supplies in rooms available resulting to more or less the same occupancy levels in the accommodation sector compared to last year, said Hauri.
“Occupancy levels across Cebu are testimony to the industry’s stability with 66 percent in 2008, 56 percent in 2009, 61 percent in 2010, 59 percent in 2011 and an estimated 61 percent in 2012, “ Hauri said.
The rooms’ supply in Cebu in 2009 increased by 20 percent to 3,325 available rooms, in 2010 a 19 percent increase, in 2011 a 15 percent increase, and in 2012 an 11 percent increase resulting to a total of 5,083 rooms available this year, said Hauri.
Quest Hotel and Conference Center Cebu with 427 rooms, Days Hotel Mandaue with 100 rooms, and Goldberry Suites and Hotel Mactan with 45 rooms are among the new hotels which opened this year and added to this year’s room capacity in Cebu.
“For 2013, we see another 10 percent increase, or 500 additional rooms now under construction. This rooms supply is to be measured against a backdrop of movements of tourist arrivals, which are estimated to surpass the 2,000,000 mark this year,” he said.
Hauri said that based on recent trends in growth figures average occupancy between resort properties and city hotels also varied by at least 10 percent with 71 percent for resorts and 61 percent for city hotels.
The average length of stay is estimated at 4.8 days for resorts and 2.9 days for city hotels.
The industry’s growth continued despite the challenges it faced this year including the country’s dispute with China over the Spratlys Islands, and the suspension of direct flights to Doha from Cebu by Qatar Airways.
“The China (PRC) market started with a great leap forward during January to April, but then ‘nose-dived’ because of China’s embargo on visitors to the Philippines because of the dispute over the Spratly Islands, that brought the market to a literal standstill,” said Hauri.
“Luckily the Korean market was able to partially compensate as well as the strong recovery from the Japan, after their tsunami/earthquake disaster in March 2011, that found once again ‘Their Paradise on this Island in the Pacific,’” said Hauri.
According to the DOT, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Cebu declined by 68.34% in the month of August alone vis-a-vis same period in 2011 with only 2,363 Chinese that came in August this year compared to that of 2011 figures of 7,464.
The new air connections with Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and additional flights connecting Cebu with Southeast Asia are also helping boost the industry’s growth this year.
Hauri said these completed the direct connections between Cebu and major capital-cities in Asia.
Aside from Asia as the major ‘catchment area’ for Cebu, tourists from Europe also showed an increase of about 10,000 arrivals, dominated by Northern Europe/Scandinavia and Russia.
Continental Europe however showed a slow-down probably because of the Qatar Airways canceling their connection to Europe via Doha last March, said Hauri.
Australia is another growth area for tourism while South Asia (India, Iran) continues to lag together with Middle East.
Hauri however said the student learning exchange programs from these countries were giving the tourism industry a boost.
Hauri also encouraged industry players to focus on the corporate market especially with the balanced growth between leisure to business meetings of travelers estimated to at 50 percent on both areas.
“Key drivers for corporate travels are the ITC/BPO Industry, the Banking & Financial Services, Manufacturing, Trading and Education. For Meetings, Incentive, Conference and Exhibitions Business, it is the Pharma and Insurance Industry that are key drivers, whilst National Associations are rotating their Annual Members Meetings between different places like Manila, Baguio, Cebu, Davao, and more recently also Clark/Subic,” said Hauri.
The initiatives by the major airlines has also help promote our destination, according to Hauri, which most if not all are actively refleeting to deliver more and open more routes in major regions including long haul routes.
Islands Group president Jay Aldeguer agreed.
Aldeguer said the airline industry had been the most critical growth driver this year as in the past years.
“New carriers and additional flights domestically and some new routes internationally have stimulated more travel to and from Cebu,” said Aldeguer.
Aldeguer added that we are now beginning to see the fruits of the liberalization of the aviation industry through the “open skies” policy, which has benefited tourism, trade and investment.
The new ‘wind in the sails’ provided by the Tourism Campaign of ‘It’s more Fun in the Philippines’ speaks directly to those rest-and-recreation-seekers, backed-up by a tourism product that is inviting, attractive, varied and definitely a proposition to return again to first-time travelers, said Hauri.
He said this campaign would help the industry attract more tourists and achieve the goals it had set in terms of the number of tourists visiting the country.
He said he was confident that the 2,000,000-target for Cebu tourists would be breached before the year ends.
Hauri and Aldeguer said they expected the continued expansion of the industry.
“First we see the additional rooms-supply in the market, an anticipated 500 new guest rooms or 10 percent increase. That would give an estimate of 4,000 to 5,000 new job opportunities. Now we need to match that with a double-digit growth rate in tourist arrivals for Cebu. Cebu as a hub is seen to strengthen its position as the number 2 airport in the country and the planned expansion of airport facilities are supporting that goal,” said Hauri.
Aldeguer said the growth would be felt all over the country.
“Cebu I believe will enjoy the same momentum but not without more competition especially in the leisure market. There will be more international airports around the Philippines—Kalibo, Caticlan and Iloilo—all in the Visayas region will continue to have direct international flights. Destinations like Bohol and Palawan are marketed as leisure destinations,” said Aldeguer.
While this would be good for Philippine tourism in general, Aldeguer advised industry players to be more vigilant if it would want to keep the top spot in the industry.
He urged them to continue to improve the MICE and business market for Cebu because there weren’t many competitors in the sector.
He also cited the importance of improving tourism infrastructure such as airports and seaports in Cebu.
“The improvement of the airports and seaports are very critical in achieving our goals. The Mactan Airport is undergoing expansion and improvement; this will help ease congestion and should accommodate more visitors in the next few years,” Aldeguer said.