Cebu poised to lead Mice Resurgence

Cebu poised to lead Mice Resurgence
OPPORTUNITY. Ma. Margarita Nograles, chief operating officer of the Tourism Promotions Board of the Department of Tourism, says Cebu stands to benefit from capturing South Korea’s incentive travel market because of its increased direct flights to South Korea.KATLENE O. CACHO-LAUREJAS

MORE than just a steady source of inbound leisure tourists South Korea, according to a tourism official, offers significant opportunities for the country’s incentive travel segment.

Specifically, Cebu has the potential to lead in attracting this market given the province’s direct access to destinations like South Korea.

“The Mice (meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition) is evolving and new patterns in our target markets are emerging,” said Ma. Margarita Nograles, chief operating officer of the Tourism Promotions Board, the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism, during the Cebu Tourism Forum 2024 at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Wednesday, July 3, 2024.

Nograles highlighted South Korea as offering significant opportunities for the Philippine incentive travel segment. It is one of the 13 top MICE markets that the Philippines is targeting, alongside Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.

The DOT had its first Philippine Mice Roadshow 2023 from Oct. 11 to 18 in South Korea, where officials and Mice organizers traveled to Busan, Yeosu, Suwon and Seoul.

Besides Cebu, other Mice destinations promoted during the roadshow were Clark, Palawan, Bacolod and Davao.

“With businesses in South Korea steadily returning to normalcy, the incentive travel market is poised for significant growth,” Nograles said. “This presents a promising avenue for increased engagement and development, positioning the Philippines as an ideal destination for South Korea’s corporate, events and group travel experiences.”

“Cebu stakeholders can leverage these opportunities, especially with the increased direct flights from South Korea to Cebu,” she added.

Airline operators like Cebu Pacific, Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, Jin Air, Korean Air and T’way offer direct flights from Cebu to South Korea.

UN hosting

In terms of promotion, Cebu is already gaining footing following the successful hosting of the first United Nations Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy Tourism for Asia and the Pacific last June 26 to 27, where a Cebu Call to action on gastronomy tourism was pushed as a driver of sustainable development for Asia and the Pacific.

Gastronomy Tourism offers travelers an authentic immersion into the traditions, history and flavors of a destination, strengthening their connection with these local communities.

Cebu also played host to the 36th Joint Commission Meeting of the Commission for East Asia and the Pacific and the Commission for South Asia on June 28 in Sheraton Cebu.

Maria Rica Bueno, DOT’s assistant secretary for tourism regulation coordination and resource generation, lauded Cebu’s public and private sectors for the successful hosting, stressing that “they received nothing but all praises.”

Bueno said Cebu was able to show off its capability of hosting big-ticket events through the recent events, regaining its position as a premier Mice destination.

“We have just recently placed Cebu once again on the global stage, sealing its mark as a world-class Mice destination,” said Bueno.

The recent international events held in Lapu-Lapu City gathered more than 150 delegates from 43 countries and over 400 participants from all over the country.

Under the DOT’s Mice Roadmap 2030, the Philippines is targeting to earn some P25 billion in revenue by 2030. It aims to position the Philippines as a leading Mice destination in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East by that year.

The roadmap also targets a rise in the gross value added (GVA) of the Mice industry to P1.4 billion; a lift in the GVA of Mice to 0.01 percent of the gross domestic product; and an improvement in the delegate expenditure per meeting to 19 percent.

Low-hanging fruit

Regan Rex King, Cebu Business Months 2024 overall chairman, earlier said they’ve decided to focus on Mice tourism this year describing it as a low-hanging fruit that Cebu has missed out.

“We missed a lot of Mice activities already. They have transferred to neighboring provinces such as Iloilo and Boracay, despite the fact, that we have one great airport and all such great hotels and restaurants as well,” he said.

Mice events can boost hotel occupancy levels, especially during periods that may otherwise be considered off-peak.

Cebu saw a robust resurgence of Mice events in 2023. It fueled growth in Cebu’s tourism industry, which had been severely affected by the prolonged hiatus in travel activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In past interviews, Alfred Reyes, president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu, said Mice gave the hotels a good run in business in 2023 even with the absence of some important foreign markets like China, whose outbound travel remains nascent.

The busy Mice activities last year, he said, were a reflection of the vibrant business activities felt across all industries.

“We see Mice continue to drive growth for hotel business this year and in the years ahead,” said Reyes. / KOC

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