THE upsurge in domestic tourists and MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) in the first quarter of this year has made Cebu’s hospitality sector more upbeat so that it now expects a jump in foreign tourists and revenues as well in the coming months.

City hotels located in the Cebu Business District are logging in an average of 70 percent occupancy, according to Alfred Reyes, president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu, on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

“The city hotels are doing well already, thanks to domestic tourism and MICE. They have been giving the hotel life right now in terms of occupancy and food and beverage performance. We can now see restaurants starting to be packed already,” said Reyes.

On the other hand, resorts are hitting an average of 50 percent occupancy, still low, as the province’s major tourists like the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese aren’t fully back yet.

“What we are looking at in the next few months is the arrival of the Chinese market. This is very promising. We’ve also seen our local airlines starting to fly again to Japan. The Korean market is already coming back, although not yet at the pre-pandemic levels,” he added.

Of the 16 Korean flights daily to Cebu during the pre-pandemic period, only half have resumed so far.

Taiwanese tourists are also slowly returning to Cebu. “They come not in groups (yet) but more on FITs (foreign independent travel),” said Reyes. FITs are those who don’t have a fixed package structure.

“Japan is the market we are all eyeing for a big comeback. But for now, we only have one direct flight (to Tokyo). Everything else is through Manila,” said Reyes. He explained that all countries are experiencing the slow return of Japanese travelers, describing them as conservative still amid the loosening of travel restrictions globally.

Last February, Yamaji Hideki, consul general of Japan in Cebu, himself said the Philippines can expect “a surge” in tourist arrivals from Japan starting from Japan’s summer season in June, after Japan categorized Covid-19 in the same category as the flu starting April this year to encourage Japanese people to go overseas.

Cebu arrivals

The Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 has not yet released the first quarter arrival figures for Cebu and Central Visayas.

However, last year, Cebu welcomed 2.2 million domestic tourists and 38,399 foreign tourists.

The DOT said it expects 4.8 million international tourist arrivals to the Philippines this year with P316 billion in inbound revenue. For domestic tourism, it targets a much larger P1.93 trillion in


In terms of employment, the agency targets to employ 5.3 million tourism workers this year, with an 11.8 percent share to the country’s employment rate.

As of May 15, the Philippines recorded a total of 2,029,419 international visitors, or 42 percent of its target this year, according to the agency. From January to April 2023, the DOT has already generated roughly P168.5 billion in visitor receipts.

(Travel sale)

Given these developments and to prepare all players for the expected surge, the HRRAC announced it is mounting its first Visayas-Mindanao (VisMin) Tourism Congress and Travel Sale on July 13 to 15, 2023 at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.

Some 200 exhibitors composed of tourism players, suppliers and other allied services are expected to join the three-day activity.

“This is our first for VisMin. A very ambitious project but we know that travel is back not only domestically. The figures for the hotels can already tell us that we have already surpassed the domestic tourism figures. Because of this, we believe that the hotels, resorts and restaurants will be joining us, including the suppliers,” said Reyes.

The VisMin Travel Sale is an event that gathers travel enthusiasts and companies offering travel packages, flights and hotel accommodations.

“It’s an excellent platform to showcase travel packages for budget-friendly trips or luxurious vacations and connect with customers face to face. The event is an exciting opportunity for both travel enthusiasts and companies to explore possibilities and find their next adventure,” said Reyes during its launching Thursday at Belmont Hotel Mactan.

Reyes urged HRRAC members to join the travel sale, saying the third and fourth quarters are fast approaching and they’re the perfect time to build up their occupancy.

Besides the travel sale, HRRAC will also mount the VisMin Tourism Congress, a newly launched tourism conference focused on the Visayas and Mindanao regions. The conference, according to Reyes, will host a diverse range of travel experts engaged in discussions about the future of the industry.

HRRAC has tapped Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco as one of the guest speakers alongside Arnold Gonzales, officer-in-charge of the MICE Department of the Tourism Promotions Board, and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. The group will also bring in international key experts to discuss the trends and future of travel and tourism. (KOC)