India emerges as promising source market for Cebu tourism

India emerges as promising source market for Cebu tourism

AS IT awaits the full return of Japanese tourists, its top source market, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is joining other resorts in Asia in tapping into India’s burgeoning economy.

The resort’s new manager Brian Noel said India, the world’s most populous country, is a key growth market for the travel and tourism sector, and a welcome addition to the slowly returning Chinese and Korean markets.

“Without the flights, we can’t expect that many Japanese to come to Cebu. So we are getting the difference somewhere. We are getting the Korean tourists back again; their numbers are higher than the pre-pandemic. And we are also tapping new markets like India,” he said.

In August, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa joined the Department of Tourism’s Fair in India to see how it could tap the Indian market.

“It is still in the exploratory stage. India has many markets to tap into, but we are still finding our niche, and we have not decided yet. However, as a five-star resort, we would like to attract India’s high-end market,” he said.

He said this market demands ease of travel to the Philippines, issuance of e-visas, and more flight connections between the two countries.

Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said the Marcos administration is exploring the provision of e-visas to Chinese and Indian nationals, among others. The e-visa for Chinese nationals was soft launched early this month.

The DOT noted that 58 percent of the Indian visitors are repeat travelers, thus the need to continue the efforts to sustain and increase their entry by exploring travel mechanisms, primarily an e-visa system, that would make travel seamless.

India, the DOT added, has also risen from being an opportunity market for the Philippines to an important market source of foreign visitors.

“We are the only country that presently does not provide the convenient electronic visa for Indian nationals. This is a huge market that the Philippines has yet to explore,” said the tourism chief.

Noel said that in preparation to cater to the Indian market, the resort’s chef is already preparing some Indian dishes that they could potentially introduce at their restaurants.

Post-pandemic business

Cebu welcomed 4,645 Indian tourists in 2022.

Coming off a three-year period of the Covid-19 pandemic and Super Typhoon Odette, Noel said the resort is focused on restoring all of its facilities to full functionality and adapting to the new business landscape in the post-pandemic era.

“It’s very different to how it was pre-pandemic. We are adjusting how it goes but hoping we can still regain the same occupancy or achieve better than the pre-pandemic performance,” he said.

On weekdays, the resort averages an occupancy rate of 80 percent and during weekends, occupancy is up at 90 percent on average. For the whole month of August, the resort logged 90 to 95 percent occupancy level driven by both local and foreign tourists.

Noel admitted that these are already “pretty good” numbers, but they don’t rest on their laurels, knowing that they can’t be sure how long this high occupancy will last.

“The challenge remains there. International flights to Cebu haven’t really resumed from the pre-pandemic levels,” he said, adding that a volatile global economy is also adding pressure to the global tourism recovery.

More seats, frequencies

According to the DOT’s Routes Development report for June 2023, eight of the country’s international gateways saw significant growth in terms of incoming frequencies and seats per week.

For instance, on a weekly average, compared to June 2022, Clark in June 2023 saw an increase of 180 percent in terms of incoming scheduled frequencies and 215 percent in terms of incoming seats, while Manila saw an increase of 75 percent in terms of incoming frequencies and 120 percent in terms of incoming seats.

In the Visayas, Kalibo recorded a 640 percent increase in incoming frequencies and 409 percent increase in incoming seats while Cebu logged an increase of 300 percent in terms of incoming frequencies and 297 percent in terms of incoming seats, and Bohol had an increase of 200 percent in terms of incoming frequencies and 128 percent in terms of incoming seats. 

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