By CHRISTIAN WAKEFIELD, Reporter
CEBU popularity as a premier tourist destination is now hitting the Arab countries. This after sources said Kuwait Airlines is now conducting research and feasibility study on its plan to open up three weekly flights from Kuwait to Cebu, which is seen as a booster to the province’s vibrant tourism atmosphere.
National Association of Independent Travel
Agencies (Naitas) Chairman Emeritus and former Kuwait Airlines District Sales Manager Robert Lim Joseph said he was informed that Kuwait Airlines is now considering a three-time a week direct flight to Cebu that will bring Arab tourists to the province.
“The direct flights would mean a significant increase in the number of tourists from the Middle East to Cebu,” said Joseph.
Even in the absence of a direct flight, around 2,400 Kuwaiti students are now enrolled in the University of Visayas in Cebu City, increasing the Middle East tourist arrivals in Cebu.
Although unexpected, the influx of rich Middle Eastern students in Cebu these past few weeks have been making up for the slowdown felt in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Department of Tourism undersecretary Phineas Alburo said that the unexpected influx of Middle Eastern tourists specifically students from Kuwait are bringing in positive business to Cebu’s tourism stakeholders as they fill in hotels at these times of slowdown.
The tourists also bring in more positive movements to the city’s business establishments like malls and restaurants.
Alburo said that these Middle Eastern students are currently taking up distance learning programs at the University of the Visayas (UV) and they have come in batches and started arriving in Cebu since last month and are under 21 days tourist VISA.
Alburo said that their office is working closely with the university and the Immigration Bureau to rationalize the situation so that Cebu can better capitalize on this emerging market.
“Middle East has long been a target market for DOT and we are slowly getting into the direction of gaining more accessibility to this market. The arrival of this big group of Kuwaiti students has been out of the blue but nevertheless, it has been filling in the gap and the downturn in arrivals and hoteliers are happy with this development because it has helped them at this time of low occupancy,” said Alburo.
He said that these tourists may have been attracted to come to Cebu for reasons that we offer a rather cheaper alternative than other destinations in the world and our quality education has also been gaining grounds world-wide.
“The Philippines is inexpensive compared to many other destinations elsewhere and the price of our education is relatively more affordable too so they chose to come over,” said Alburo.