FACED with strong regional and domestic competition, Cebu needs to position itself as the top tourist destination in the Philippines and help the country become one of the top five most visited countries in Southeast Asia.

“Cebu is being left behind by its neighbors in tourist arrivals. It gets only half of Phuket’s number of tourists and only a third of Bali,” said economist and Cebu Business Club executive director Perry Fajardo during the recent Cebu Tourism and Investment Forum held in the Marco Polo Hotel.

The data he presented showed foreign arrivals in Cebu from 2005 to 2010 reached 833,441. On the other hand, Bali in Indonesia had 2.5 million foreign tourists in the same years, and Phuket had 1.7 million. Boracay had 278,531 foreign tourist arrivals in the same period.


Also considered as an external threat to Cebu’s tourism is the strong competition it faces from other areas in the country like Camarines Sur, Boracay, Bohol, Davao and Northern Luzon.

Cebu, according to Fajardo, is targeting five million foreign tourists by 2016, which means a 20 percent annual growth rate since year 2011. However, based on the 2006-2011 trend, Cebu will get only 2.8 million tourists by 2016, with an annual growth rate of nine percent.

Where to go?

Foreign tourist arrivals in Cebu in 2013 reached 1.2 million, while domestic tourist arrivals reached 1.4 million.

To reach the goal of making Cebu the country’s top tourist destination, Fajardo said it should “develop its products” by creating new local destinations.

“Protect, preserve and enhance Cebu’s historical heritage and natural assets as the basic foundation of tourism development. Expand and develop new products and local destinations that have the greatest market potential,” he said.

Metro Cebu can become the destination for MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) historical/cultural events, educational/medical tourism, and retirement.

Meanwhile, Mactan-Olango Island can focus on island-hopping, sports tourism, and the like. Southern Cebu can concentrate on eco-tourism, and Northern Cebu can become a beach, diving and religious destination.

Along with this, Fajardo said, Cebu should focus on brand recognition as a “prime destination area” with quality and diverse tourism offerings.

Long-staying guests

He said Cebu should also work on marketing itself to other countries, aside from just attracting the Korean and Japanese travelers. Russians make up a growing tourist market in the Philippines. Last year, more than 15,000 Russians visited Cebu.

“Focus on long-staying visitors for the greatest economic impact,” he said, which he later on identified as Europeans.

Another important element to boost Cebu’s tourism is the improvement of its infrastructure, which, Fajardo said, should also be looked into.

“Develop infrastructure that is world-class, convenient, easy and safe for visitors and the people of Cebu,” he said. He cited the need for enhanced visitor comfort and mobility in Cebu through improved roads and bridges, fast communication, quality water, and stable power supply.

He also said it is important for the community to be involved and collaborate on tourism-related projects in their localities to get a feel for the tourism industry’s impact.