Events and tourism infrastructure developments in Cebu are boosting the destinationâ€™s appeal in the eyes of international event planners.
Cebu was already informed as the winner in the Philippinesâ€™ bid for hosting Routes Asia 2016. The inspection team, however, changed their mind and chose Manila instead upon seeing ongoing infrastructure projects, including the skyway that now links Ninoy Aquino International Airport to various parts of the metro.
But the loss was reversed with Routes Asia 2019 going to Cebu three years later in March. Cebuâ€™s metamorphosis is palpable even though it is traditionally the Philippinesâ€™ most popular business events destination after Manila.
International event delegates are now able to fly directly to Cebu, unlike in the past when they had to fly via Manila, as Mactan Cebu International Airportâ€™s (MCIA) newly minted resort-themed international passenger terminal 2 is the most modern and most efficient in the country, apart from being the most aesthetically pleasing.
The future augurs well for Cebu as more road and infrastructure facilities are under construction, new hotels like Sheraton and Dusit fill in the supply shortage, new attractions including the Temple of Leah are unveiled, and improved marketing spotlighting Cebuâ€™s rich culture, cuisine and entertainment options gets underway.
Colliers International Philippines forecasted that â€śthese developments will attract more MICE organisers, specifically from (South-east Asia)â€¦.We see regional events further boosting Cebuâ€™s overall hotel occupancy in 2019 and raising Cebuâ€™s stature as a MICE destination in the regionâ€ť.
This outlook is supported by Bella Calleja, manager, corporate team 2 MICE, JTB Asia Pacific Philippines, who said: â€śThe new airport is helping a lot. More Japanese people know Cebu as a prime destination than they do Manila. Another factor (in Cebuâ€™s favour) is the direct Philippine Airlines flight from Cebu to Tokyo and Osaka.â€ť
Besides Routes Asia 2019, other prominent Asian events held in Cebu include the PATA Annual Summit in May and the Center for Aviationâ€™s North Asia Summit in June.
Most business events are held in hotels due to the absence of a proper convention and exhibition centre in the destination. The construction of the SMX Convention Center Cebu â€“ touted to be the same size as SMX in Manila â€“ is being delayed by local government issues.
Undeterred, SMX Convention Center vice president, sales and marketing, Agnes Pacis, said they are in the meantime focusing on their two existing properties, Sky Hall Seaside Cebu in SM Seaside City Cebu and Cebu Trade Hall in SM City Cebu, to meet the demand for medium-sized business events.
â€śWhile some of the existing hotel and non-hotel venues can take small to medium-sized events, there is certainly room for bigger players like SMX. Its arrival will only boost the cityâ€™s competitive position as one of the top business events destinations in both the local and international marketsâ€ť, said Pacis.
Cebu is indeed enjoying a surge in inbound business events if the experience of Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino â€“ the hotel venue whose largest hosted business event numbered 7,500 pax â€“ is anything to go by.
General manager, Anders Hallden, told TTGmice that his property is enjoying â€śrecord-breaking performance every year in both rooms and MICE,â€ť and especially so this year, thanks to much-improved events hardware and intensified marketing and promotions of the destination.