Manila studies plans for new cruise terminal

20 July 2000

The Philippine Tourism Authority is looking into the possibility of developing a cruise terminal near the current Pier 15, located behind the Manila Hotel, a piece of news that will be welcomed by inbound operators who are keen to get into the lucrative cruise business.

PTA general manager Angelito Banayo said he was in discussions with the Department of Transportation and Communications to review usage of the area for a purpose-built cruise terminal.

The Philippine tourism industry has long been clamouring for a cruise terminal that would be able to take major cruise liners, arguing that the Philippines, made up of 7,000 islands, was a natural destination for cruising.

While agents in the rest of Asia have been able to expand into the lucrative cruise segment, Manila operators have had to work within the confines of the limited cruising infrastructure. Port facilities remain rudimentary and cater mainly for seamen traffic who stop over in Manila for R&R.

Although cruise liners do call in at islands such as Cebu, Boracay and Palawan, they have to anchor offshore and inbound operators have to hire flotillas of boats to bring passengers onshore.

"It's not the most ideal of situations," said Billie Calizo of Blue Horizons Tours & Travel. "Our facilities are basic and we are not getting the type of cruise tourists we should be."

She said liners such as Royal Caribbean, Royal Viking and Princess had come calling at Cebu and Palawan, and Boracay recently welcomed three liners in a week.

Calizo however believed the Philippines should go more for small vessel cruising due to the nature of its islands. "If you bring big numbers of people into places like Palawan, it would not be the right thing to do."

Blue Horizons operates the Discovery cruises where the maximum passenger load is 20 clients. "Products such as the Blue Lagoon in Fiji would be ideal," said Calizo.

Blue Horizons, which recently sealed a partnership deal with Diethelm Travel Thailand, would be pushing product development in its strategy, she added.

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