Cruise ship tourism marks strong start in Subic


Passengers of MS World Dream saunter at the Alava Wharf in the Subic Bay Freeport prior to boarding tourist buses that would take them to various destinations in the provinces of Zambales, Bataan and Pampanga. MS World Dream, which is owned by Genting Hong Kong Ltd. and listed as the 19th biggest cruise ship in operation today, would now regularly visit the Subic Bay Freeport following the recent issuance of a Malacañang order easing travel for foreigners via Subic sea ports. – JUN DUMAGUING

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – With six vessel arrivals scheduled for the month of January alone, this premier free port expects to cement its reputation further as the newest cruise ship destination and top anchor tourist attraction in the country today.

On Wednesday, Subic welcomed for the third time this year the cruise ship World Dream, the flagship of the Chinese premium brand Dream Cruises owned by Genting Hong Kong.

The ship is set to be back here on January 30 while another Subic regular, the Italian-flagged Costa Atlantica owned by Costa Crociere, has booked arrivals for January 15 and 29.

“Right now we’re experiencing a phenomenal influx of cruise ships, and this is really a strong start for Subic, which recorded 17 arrivals last year,” said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, who was among those who welcomed World Dream at the Alava Wharf here on Wednesday.

“We are very happy that our cruise ship program is really picking up, and this is just the start. By next month we hope to see more cruise ships coming in and some of them would be staying here in Subic overnight,” she added.

According to SBMA Tourism Department manager Jem Camba, an average of 3,000 tourists disembark in Subic from each visiting cruise ship and then go on tours of various attractions in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo City, Clark Freeport Zone, and the nearby provinces of Zambales and Bataan.

Among the favorite destinations of cruise ship passengers are the nature theme parks in Subic and historical places in Bataan and Pampanga, she said.

Last year, the Central Luzon Regional Development Council cited the SBMA for developing Subic into a premier cruise ship destination in the country and noted that cruise ship arrivals in Subic had generated more than P85-million worth of economic activity in the first eight months alone.

Chairman Eisma said she expects a better record this year because of Executive Order No. 72 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last December.

Calling it a “game-changer for Subic and Region 3,” Eisma said EO 72 is expected to bring in more visitors because it eased the entry of foreign nationals via the Subic sea ports and extended them a visa-free stay of 14 days similar to those entering though the Subic airport.

“This arrangement is less complicated, and thus we foresee that the resulting ease of travel would make Subic Bay an even bigger tourist magnet and anchor destination in Central Luzon,” she added.

Eisma also said the new measure would encourage the development of more tourism establishments in nearby parts of Region 3, which could make use of Subic as anchor destination and gateway.

“The EO, as well as all the support measures we get from the national government, dovetails with our strategy to develop Subic into an anchor destination that will help catalyze inclusive growth in the region,” Eisma noted.

“Subic and its neighboring areas are now coming up with curated experiences that they can commonly sell to tourists, specifically cruise ship passengers, so this way they can complement each other’s’ strong points,” Eisma said.

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