The arrival of the first cruise ship in the country following the COVID-19 pandemic gave Puerto Princesa City another lift in the tourism industry’s recovery.

The Seabourn Encore arrived at the Puerto Princesa City seaport at 6:30 a.m. today, signaling the return of cruise ship tourism after a two-year hiatus.

It arrived from Singapore with 512 passengers and 482 crew members, 200 of whom are Filipinos.

The return of cruise ship tourism, according to Department of Tourism (DOT) MIMAROPA Regional Director Zenny Pallugna, is a welcome development for the Philippines and the city in particular, as it is expected to aid the economy’s recovery.

“Puerto Princesa is very fortunate with Seabourn Encore, this is its first stop after sailing from Singapore,” Pallugna said.

“Right now, there are already 22 scheduled cruise calls in Palawan and we are expecting 41 in MIMAROPA with more than 47,000 passengers plus the crew, so that’s around 60,000 arrivals just for the cruise ships only so that’s a big development for the department, especially as we open our borders to foreign travelers,” she added.

She also stated that they will make an effort to invite Secretary Ma. Esperanza Christina Frasco to the city in order to extend a warm welcome to a larger cruise ship that is expected to arrive in the city on March 4.

She added that they are targeting to have more cruise ship arrivals this year.

“Pre-pandemic, that was year 2019, we had 159 cruise calls for the entire country. So this year, we are only in the first quarter and we already have confirmed 141 cruise calls. That’s a very big boost to our tourism industry, especially with the department targeting around 4.9 million foreign tourist arrivals,” she said.

Meanwhile, City Tourism Department (CTD) chief Demetrio Alvior Jr. said the return of the cruise ship is a welcome development that will further boost the city tourism industry’s recovery.

He reiterated that while the industry has yet fully returned to its pre-pandemic status, the recovery is going faster than expected.

“Napakasaya kasi tayo ang unang pinutahan at umpisa pa lang ito so malaking boost ito sa ating turismo. Senyales na ito na nakikita na ulit ang ating lungsod sa turismo. Mabilis ang ating recovery kasi noong pandemic tinitingnan namin na 3-4 years ang ating recovery,” Alvior said.

“Nakita natin simula last year ay mabilis ang magiging recovery. Last year nasa 300,000 [arrivals] tayo so this year sana ma-doble natin at kung umabot ng 1 million mas maganda,” he said.

He also explained that connectivity in the city is not yet in full swing as flights are not yet still limited.

“Our regional director is working out for the return of direct flights from Davao, Siargao, Ilo-ilo and Clark. Malaking tulong yun na maka-recover ang ating turismo,” he said.

Mayor Lucilo R. Bayron, on the other hand, said it is an honor for the city to be the first port of call for a cruise ship in the country.

He said he is expecting cruise ship tourism play a big role in the city’s economy.

“We are projecting that there will be more to come that’s why we requested the DPWH to construct a bigger cruise port – the 500-meter port in Quito. This cruise ship industry is so big help in our economy,” Bayron said.

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