TOUR operators in Cebu are looking forward to seeing more tourists from the Middle East to experience the fun atmosphere and natural beauty of the province.
But to fully capture this market, Alice Queblatin, president of the Cebu Alliance of Tour Operation Specialists Inc., said direct access to countries like Israel and Turkey must be put in place.
“Direct access from Cebu to Israel is very important. While a lot of us are doing pilgrimage tours to Israel, people from Israel are also looking at Cebu as their next destination. We need direct flights,” she said.
Philippine Airlines is eyeing to launch a direct flight to Israel via Manila this year. A report said that at present, the airline is still negotiating with Saudi Arabia to allow its planes to fly over Saudi airspace to serve the route.
Israeli travel agents, according to Queblatin, have already made ocular visits to Cebu and have reached out to local tour operators for possible collaborations or links.
Under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2016 to 2022, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is targeting 29,455 tourists from Israel this year, nearly 45 percent higher than last year’s arrivals.
She said Cebu is gaining ground as a wedding and leisure destination among the Middle Eastern countries. The group also observed increasing specialty tours from the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions market.
Besides the growing interest from Israeli tourists, Queblatin said Turkish travel agents have also made initial tours to Cebu in the last few months to experience Cebu.
Recently, DOT 7, with GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC) and Silk Air, also hosted 30 members of the Travel Agents Association of India for a familiarization tour of Cebu and Boracay last March 3 to 7.
The DOT said this is part of its efforts in promoting Cebu as a business, leisure and wedding destination for Indian travelers.
The familiarization tour is the outcome of the roadshow conducted last year by DOT 7, GMCAC and Silk Air in four key cities in India, namely Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Besides tapping the Southeast Asian market, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said opportunities also abound if the country attracts markets like France, Spain, Russia, Middle East and Mediterranean countries, particularly Israel and Turkey.
“What we want to achieve is an optimum mix of source markets, and to engage a more targeted marketing approach to maintain and ensure that the headcount targets under the NTDP are met,” Bengzon said. (KOC)