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Cebu named 5th best island in the world

Swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu has become a major tourist attraction in recent years Photo courtesy of KLARA FERNANDEZ

The international accolades get bigger and wider in scope as Cebu continues to outdo itself, placing fifth among the world’s best islands, while the Mactan-Cebu international Airport (MCIA) copped 14th place on the global front as well.

Respondents from the 2016 Readers Choice’ Awards Survey of the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler magazine termed 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.”

Other comments describe Cebu as “not as wild as Phuket in Thailand, Cebu is more personal with plenty of up-and-coming restaurants and shopping.”

Cebu’s fifth place ranking marks an all-time high as the island province has been a perennial Top 10 placer for the past several years, with the previous high being at eighth place. Interestingly, Cebu placed a lowly 19th in 2015 – an all-time low ever since it broke into the Top 10 over a decade ago.

This solidifies Cebu’s status as a certified and consistent tourism magnet in the region despite being surrounded by much stronger competition, which boasts of stronger financial resources and higher tourism arrivals.

Sweetening the pot is the readers’ choice of Boracay as world’s top island, nudging Palawan to the second spot this year.

This marks the first time ever that three Philippine destinations have placed among the Top Five islands in the world in the Conde Nast surveys.

Stakeholder feedback

Despite the glowing news, some leading industry personalities have expressed caution on the story, as they are well aware that much more needs to be done to improve Cebu’s competitiveness situationer.

Dondi Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club, declared that while Cebu is indeed beautiful, much work is still needed on improving traffic management, sustainable water management, wastewater management, and protection of the seas and forests.

“Without these, Cebu will degrade and become just another island of urban sprawl,” he said in a text message.

Joselito “Boboi” Costas, Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer, said “the ratings are a good promotion for Cebu, as well as an opportunity to look for ways to improve the facilities and services.”

Edilberto “Bert” Mendoza, president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operators (CATO), stated that he was happy to know that Cebu is now recognized the world over as one of the best islands.

“This, coupled with our new and efficient airport, will really bring in more tourists to Cebu. Our local government should take these good signs as a wake-up call to facilitate the improvement of our tourism infrastructure for us to be ready with the influx of visitors,” he said in a text message.

Glenn Soco, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), said that the news serves as a welcome development for Cebu, especially in its efforts to boost tourism. He expects the ratings to improve considering the right infrastructure would soon be in place.

“With the completion of the new terminal and further improvements in the existing
terminal, these developments will surely complement our position as a favored tourism and investment destination,” he replied in a text message.

Melanie Ng, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), stated
that she is very much elated that Cebu has placed fifth in the Conde Nast survey.

“This just proves that the concerted efforts of government and the private sector, along with a much invigorated and enhanced marketing initiative to promote Cebu is bearing fruit. Also, this increases our responsibility to ensure that we continue to strengthen our efforts and establish innovative marketing efforts to get to the top of the list.”

Regarding the airport ranking, Ng called it as “personally very gratifying” since she has served as the Private Sector Representative at the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) for a number of years.

“I have seen and experienced the great work and collaboration done by the authority representing the government and the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) representing the private sector. The positive outcome shows how a strong collaboration between public and private entities can create so much development that will benefit the greater public,” she said in a text message.

To recall, the MCIA previously ranked 18th in 2015 as a result of its aggressive campaign for better facilities en route to a more pleasant airport experience.

Airport highlights

MCIA is 60 percent owned by the GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMR-CAC), which won a 25-year concession to manage the airport and renovate Terminal One for the deposited and non-refundable amount of PhP14 billion.

The past several months has witnessed several upgrades in services and amenities designed for maximum passenger convenience and accessibility.

Examples here are the new taxi and bus lanes, renovated toilets, new lactation room, better lighting facilities, presence of greenery within the terminal, more food concessionaires, and new check-in facilities.

GMR-CAC has also been very aggressive in the establishment of new overseas flights. Last March, the airport was successful in negotiating the creation of three new inaugural flights from Taiwan, Dubai, and Xiamen.

Upcoming plans include indoor parking, a mall, a hotel, and more roads leading to the airport.