DESPITE Pope Francis’ reported absence for next year’s International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), stakeholders in the tourism industry still expect an influx of guests to arrive in Cebu.
The 51st IEC in January 2016 is expected to draw 15,000 congress participants, excluding spectators.
“I don’t think the expected number of guests will decline following the announcement of Pope Francis’ absence during the IEC. We still expect more guests to arrive in Cebu to witness and participate in the activities lined up during the congress,” said Rowena Montecillo, director of Department of Tourism (DOT) 7.
The IEC, scheduled on Jan. 24 to 31 next year, is a gathering of Catholics from all around the world. The celebration allows participants of different races to share their common faith in God. Anchored on the theme, “Christ in You, our Hope of Glory”, the congress aims to instill the concept of hope amidst fighting among nations.
It is the second time the Philippines will be hosting the IEC. Manila hosted the event in 1937.
Like Montecillo, Julie Najar, president of Hotels, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) also believes the expected turn out of the congress will remain the same, as the attendees are comprised of archdiocese delegations from around the world.
“Visiting devotees whose intention is to attend the mass celebrated by Pope Francis himself, would just have been an added number to the people expected to come to Cebu,” said Najar, also general manager of Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.
Hotels in Cebu are bracing for the influx of more guests coming to Cebu starting this year until 2016. The province will host some meetings of the Apec Summit here on August to September and the IEC next year—two major international events that will put Cebu in the spotlight.
“The preparation and the upgrade we are putting in place in our hotel is not only intended for the upcoming Apec summit but onwards the IEC,” said Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu general manager Nishan Silva in previous interviews.
Karen Mendoza, executive assistant manager of Quest Hotel, in a separate interview, disclosed that as early as now they have been getting booking inquiries for January next year.
January is already a peak season for Cebu because of the Sinulog Festival, where local tourists and balikbayans come to Cebu to pay homage to Señor Sto. Niño and celebrate the week-long festival. DOT 7 already expects a spike in the number of tourists, both local and foreign, because of the two international events.