THE GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Inc. (GMCAC)-initiated Cebu Tourism Task Force wants to attract more Japanese tourists by showcasing Cebu’s beaches.

Aside from being Cebu’s second largest source market for tourism next to South Korea, increased flight frequencies to Japan from Cebu have made the market the next big tourism opportunity for Cebu, said Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 Director Rowena Montecillo.

Philippine Airlines operates a Cebu-Narita flight twice daily, and flies to Osaka four times weekly and Nagoya three times weekly. Cebu Pacific flies to Narita four times weekly.

Montecillo, who also chairs the Cebu Tourism Task Force, added the department saw the potential of attracting more Japanese tourists to visit the Philippines following the country’s participation in Japan’s Sapporo snow festivals in Hokkaido, where a snow sculpture of the Manila Cathedral was a main feature.

Natural attractions

“That was part of the DOT’s endeavor to attract more Japanese tourists during Visit the Philippines Year 2015, which we hope Cebu can also get a good slice of. After all, we already have increased flights to Japan,” she said.

The Philippines aims to sell the country’s beaches and other natural attractions to potential visitors from Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital.

The DOT, through its Tourism Promotions Board, updated travel stakeholders in Hokkaido about tourism developments in the Philippines, including an increase in direct flights from Japan to the country and the growth in the number of deluxe hotels in major tourist destinations.

This month, DOT 7 and GMCAC are scheduled to visit Japan for a travel mission.

GMCAC Chief Executive Advisor Andrew Harrison said the Cebu Tourism Task Force will initially focus on the Japanese market.

Signs of the times

“We will do it one market at a time,” he said. Harrison added they will be putting in place new features at the airport such as signs translated to Korean and Japanese, as well as an automated announcement system that is multi-lingual, in a bid to make the airport more friendly to non-English-speaking guests.

GMCAC is the private operator of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport under a private-public partnership.

DOT Tokyo attaché Valentino Cabansag, in a statement, said he believes the agency will breach the 500,000 threshold of Japanese arrivals to the Philippines in 2015, which would make the country a major tourist destination for outbound Japanese travelers.

Japan ranked as the third biggest country market, providing a total of 130,374 arrivals, during the first three months of the year, up by 8.69 percent from its 2014 arrivals of 119,951.

Japanese arrivals to Region 7 during the same period reached 84,471, up by 37.28 percent from the same months last year.