International spotlight was on Cebu this week as the island and its airport were recently recognized as among the best in the world.
Condé Nast Traveler named Cebu as the fifth best island in the world, up from the 19th spot last year, in its 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards Survey published on its website last Oct. 17.
“This global recognition helps in promoting Cebu, but more work needs to be done for the tourism benefits to trickle down to local communities,” Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer Joselito “Boboi” Costas said in a Facebook post.
The survey had readers rank the best islands in the world outside the US, from nearby Caribbean beaches to remote islands in Southeast Asia.
Condé Nast describes Cebu as “the most densely populated island in the Philippines … famous for its beaches on the mainland as well as across many of the surrounding islands.”
“Not as wild as Phuket in Thailand, Cebu is more personal, with plenty of up-and-coming restaurants and shopping,” the international luxury travel magazine said.
Boracay Island got the top spot in the rankings, bumping off Palawan to second place this year.
The three Philippine destinations — Cebu, Boracay and Palawan — outranked the British Virgin Islands (18th), Santorini in Greece (17th), Ibiza in Spain (16th) and Bali in Indonesia (10th), among others.
Infrastructure and facilities
In a text message to Cebu Daily News, Costas said there is a need to overhaul visitor facilities, especially in the towns, if Cebu wants to improve or at least maintain its ranking.
He said the island needs more clean toilets, staffed visitor information centers open every day for eight hours, road signage, clean and safe restaurants and reservation systems using cashless transactions.
Department of Tourism Central Visayas (DOT-7) Officer-in-charge Judy Gabato welcomed this recognition.
She said intensifying transport infrastructure development, attracting tourism investments and improving the business environment are also necessary to bring Cebu’s spot up.
The DOT had set aside around P1.8 billion in 2015 for the concreting and rehabilitation of 38 roads leading to tourism sites in the region, 14 of which are in Cebu City and province.
Earlier this year, tourism officials vowed to complete these pending projects before the end of 2016.
Gabato said there is also a need to enhance human resource capacity and improve service standards.
In 2015, Cebu welcomed 3.3 million foreign and domestic arrivals, comprising the bulk of visitors in Central Visayas that year.
Meanwhile, the Mactan–Cebu International Airport (MCIA) was also recognized as 14th best airport in Asia this year, up by four notches from the 18th spot in 2015.
In the annual survey conducted by SleepingInAirports.net, travelers were asked to rate airports in Asia based on their overall airport experience.
Travelers ranked their experiences on factors such as comfort (rest zones and gate seating); services, facilities and things to do; food options; immigration and security; customer service; and cleanliness.
According to the travel website, the best airports in Asia are typically dually ranked as the best in the world.
Other Philippine airports that made it to the top 30 airports in Asia are Iloilo International Airport (11th), Clark International Airport (15th) and Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City (26th).
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Glenn Soco said the improvement in the rankings of MCIA was already an accomplishment.
“It could only improve as the existing terminal is currently undergoing renovation, and a new terminal will soon rise. These developments will surely help our tourism efforts and business,” he said.
He said he hopes that other infrastructure projects will be done to complement the airport to make it a complete positive experience for the travelers.
Hembler Mendoza, Lapu-Lapu City tourism office chief, said this recognition goes to show that the current airport management is doing its job.
“This has a very big impact on tourism in Cebu in general and Lapu-Lapu in particular,” he said.
Mendoza added that the recognition creates a very positive impression among travelers, and outperforming other airports is another feat that stakeholders have to take advantage of.
MCIA General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete said they are happy with the improvement and certainly wish for the airport to get better in the years to come.
“Together with GMCAC, we will strive to further upgrade airport services to serve our visitors and passengers better, facilitating processing times, making everything more convenient, offering new and more sophisticated services and pampering our visiting customers so that ultimately, they will return and visit Cebu more often,” he said.
He said the improvements currently being done on airport facilities will help spur the growth of the MCIA.
The GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), which is 60 percent owned by listed Filipino construction company Megawide Construction Corporation and 40 percent by Bangalore-based GMR Infrastructure Limited, won a 25-year concession agreement to manage MCIA and renovate Terminal 1 of the airport.
Last year, GMCAC started work on MCIA’s Terminal 2 to boost the airport’s passenger-carrying capacity to 13 million annually from the current 4.5 million by October of 2018.
Terminal 2, located right beside the existing terminal, will span approximately 45,000 square meters, which will be expanded further in phase two.
Plans to bid out a five-hectare property within the MCIA to private developers in the next two months are also underway.
GMCAC started talks with foreign and local investors last April, the SM and Ayala groups as well as a Las Vegas–based developer expressing interest to bid for the property.
Louie Ferrer, GMCAC president, said in an earlier statement that the mixed-use development will possibly include hotels, mall complex and a casino.
The mixed-use development will be built right across the second terminal of MCIA, both of which are expected to be completed towards the end of 2018.
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