THE Subic Bay Freeport expects to cement its reputation further as the newest cruise ship destination and top anchor tourist attraction in the country after six vessel have arrived here this month.
Subic welcomed for the third time this year the cruise ship World Dream, the flagship of the Chinese premium brand Dream Cruises owned by Genting Hong Kong that arrived here on Wednesday.
The ship is set to be back here on January 30 while another Subic regular, the Italian-flagged Costa Atlantica owned by Costa Crociere, has booked arrivals for January 15 and 29.
“Right now we’re experiencing a phenomenal influx of cruise ships, and this is really a strong start for Subic, which recorded 17 arrivals last year,” said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman and administrator Wilma Eisma, who was among those who welcomed World Dream at the Alava Wharf here.
“We are very happy that our cruise ship program is really picking up, and this is just the start. By next month we hope to see more cruise ships coming in and some of them would be staying here in Subic overnight,” she added.
Jem Camba, manager of SBMA Tourism Department, said an average of 3,000 tourists disembark in Subic from each visiting cruise ship and then go on tours of various attractions in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo City, Clark Freeport Zone, and the nearby provinces of Zambales and Bataan.
Among the favorite destinations of cruise ship passengers are the nature theme parks in Subic and historical places in Bataan and Pampanga, she said.
Last year, the Central Luzon Regional Development Council cited the SBMA for developing Subic into a premier cruise ship destination in the country and noted that cruise ship arrivals in Subic had generated more than P85 million worth of economic activity in the first eight months alone.
Chairman Eisma said she expects a better record this year because of Executive Order No. 72 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last December.
Calling it a “game-changer for Subic and Region III,” Eisma said EO 72 is expected to bring in more visitors because it eased the entry of foreign nationals via the Subic sea ports and extended them a visa-free stay of 14 days similar to those entering though the Subic airport.
“This arrangement is less complicated, and thus we foresee that the resulting ease of travel would make Subic Bay an even bigger tourist magnet and anchor destination in Central Luzon,” she added.
Eisma also said the new measure would encourage the development of more tourism establishments in nearby parts of Region 3, which could make use of Subic as anchor destination and gateway.
“The EO, as well as all the support measures we get from the national government, dovetails with our strategy to develop Subic into an anchor destination that will help catalyze inclusive growth in the region,” Eisma noted.
“Subic and its neighboring areas are now coming up with curated experiences that they can commonly sell to tourists, specifically cruise ship passengers, so this way they can complement each other’s’ strong points,” Eisma said. (Ric Sapnu)