China, Korea key markets in tourism

WHILE he foresees a slowdown in big conventions this year, the new general manager of Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu anticipates a surge in arrivals from key markets like China and Korea.

The opening of Terminal 2 of Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), as well as the tourism industry’s marketing efforts, will help fuel demand, said Stephan Sieberg, in an interview last Tuesday.

Sieberg, who is German, arrived in Cebu last Feb. 1. He will now oversee day-to-day operations of the eight-year-old, 400-room hotel.

“We foresee the big conventions to be at a slower pace this year compared with the past two years, where the hotel hosted Asean and Apec meetings. However, given the rapid changes in trends, too, this forecast could still change. So it requires flexibility for everyone,” said Sieberg, who is a first-timer in the Philippines. He is also new to the Radisson hospitality property.

He defines big conventions as those with over 400 participants.

China, Korea and Taiwan have become the hotel’s top three feeder markets. Sieberg anticipates a surge in arrivals in markets where Cebu has direct air access.

“It would be difficult to create demand if you don’t have connectivity. That’s why the opening of Terminal 2 is a tremendous help in tourism. Airports are your windows to the world,” said Sieberg, adding that the presence of an airport plus its connectivity to other countries will translate to room demand and, soon after, trade activities.

GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), the private operator of MCIA, is slated to open Terminal 2 in the first half of this year. The expansion will bring the airport’s capacity from 4.5 million to 12.5 million.

“The potential traffic in tourism will be dependent on infrastructure,” said Sieberg.

Radisson Blu’s occupancy for the past two months has been above 90 percent. It reflects Colliers Philippines’ outlook of a tourism boom this year, citing MCIA’s Terminal 2 completion as an important factor.

Colliers Philippines said Cebu’s rapid growth should support 15 to 20 percent growth in tourist arrivals and should sustain hotel occupancy of between 65 and 70 percent across Metro Cebu this year.

As Cebu further opens its doors to the rest of the world, Sieberg, who has been in the hospitality industry for 30 years, said there should be a balance in tourism.

“You need to balance tourism a little bit. If you flood the market with cheap tourism it will fire back over time, which could become a risk. Cebu is also a destination for upscale or high-end tourism. You have everything here,” he said.

“I see a bright future for Cebu. It could be a stand-alone destination. It has its own identity, own culture, own language. There’s a lot of value in the future for this area and the demand for Cebu proves it,” said Sieberg, citing the busy construction activities happening all over the province.

He said hygiene, infrastructure, safety and security are the important factors tourists consider when visiting a destination.

A seasoned hotelier managing international brands and luxury properties throughout Europe and Asia, Sieberg said he strives to continuously improve guest experience, ensure highest quality and satisfaction levels, develop strategic plans, and drive business growth.

Sieberg’s approach is driven by his passion for people to deliver an exceptional and personalized experience, aimed at exceeding customer expectations.
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