The Department of Tourism (DOT) expects to rake up more revenues from cruise tourism as Star Cruises’ Superstar Virgo debuted its homeporting in Manila on 19 March 2017.
Tourism Chief Wanda Tulfo-Teo stressed that Genting’s flagship vessel will provide the government, private operators and host areas a consistent stream of revenues and employment opportunities.
“We look forward to many years of fruitful, mutually-beneficial relationship with Star Cruises. There is a bright future ahead for the cruise industry as passengers in the future will want to travel not just for pleasure but also for purpose. If you think about it, why put up with long tedious travels to get to your destination when you can enjoy the journey as well?” Secretary Teo said during the event which was attended by industry people, government agency representatives, media and others.
In 2015, for the 94,000 passenger destination days (PDD), an estimated US$ 21.2M was spent as direct contributions to the Philippine economy for the 77 port calls. This amount is expected to increase with this year’s target of 117 port calls bringing in about 120,000 PDDs. Furthermore, operating for the first time as homeport, additional revenues are collected for pre- and post-cruise activities/services which include provisioning, bunkering, garbage disposal and sludge removal.
Crewing is most important, whether as transit or homeport as Filipinos comprise the bulk of most of the cruise liners’ manpower. Filipinos are regarded as the most sought-after ship manpower among other nationalities. More than a third of Superstar Virgo’s crew of 1,100 are Filipinos with a good number serving as supervisors.
While docked in Hong Kong, a brief press conference was held to again present the new product to participating media not only from the Philippines but also those from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Star Cruises President Mr. Ang Moo Lim also cited that the new itinerary was in support of the Asia Cruise Cooperation (ACC), created to boost promotion of the existing tour programmes as well as developing tie ups with other cruise companies. Members are Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Hainan and Xiamen.
DOT Director Ma. Corazon Jorda-Apo who represented Secretary Wanda Teo read part of the latter’s message as, “Our talks with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), our membership in the Asia Cruise Fund and Asian Cruise Cooperation, our commitment entered into the ASEAN Cruise Strategy and very recently, the completion of the country’s National Cruise Tourism Strategy — all of these have scored us significant weights in putting us in the right direction.
We congratulate Star Cruises for believing in the Philippines. Thank you for helping us get closer to our vision as a regional cruise center to serve as homeport and eventually as center for cruise crew training, maintenance services and ship building in the long term.”
Meanwhile, Jorda-Apo, in an interview, said, “With the completion of our National Cruise Tourism Strategy, this serves as a roadmap for the country and its players in achieving our long-term goal of being not only as a destination or port of call but as a homeport which generates more jobs and also as a preferred market source as the economy improves and boosts the Filipinos’ capacity to spend for recreation.
Crucial is the development of soft and hard infrastructure. We foresee that by the end of the Duterte administration, we would see the realization of the first dedicated cruise terminal. With the parallel building and upgrading of other harbors, piers and terminals, this would increase our capacity to serve more and bigger ships which can bring in as much as 5,000 passengers. Our ultimate goal is to be as seamless as possible and to gain competitiveness as a major cruise hub in Asia,” Jorda-Apo added.
Taiwan Tourism Bureau (TTB) Deputy Director Dr. Wayne Liu and Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Executive Director Mr. Anthony Lau also gave their congratulatory speeches to Star Cruises.
The maiden voyage saw about 2,000 passengers departing from Manila for the five-night/six-day journey dubbed as “Jewels of the South China Sea” covering Laoag, Kaohsiung, Hong Kong and back to Manila. Hordes of families, friends, employees on office company incentive tours, young and old couples, students on sabbatical leave and even singles — all shared one thing in common, that is, to detox, destress, relax and have fun. It is believed that most of the passengers are those who would normally fly to Singapore or Hong Kong to avail of cruise voyages.