SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—With the scheduled return of cruise ships early next year and the planned rebranding of Subic Bay to expand its tourism market, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is expecting to revive the tourism industry here and regain Subic’s stature as one of the top attractions in the country.
SBMA Chairman and Administrator Jonathan D. Tan said he was confident that Subic tourism will attain full recovery following the lifting last week by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the public health emergency under the Covid-19 pandemic.
The lifting of the health emergency “provides us with an optimistic outlook of the travel and tourism industry in the country,” Tan said during the 2023 Luzon Cluster Regional Consultative Forum of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) at the Diamond Hotel here on Wednesday, July 26.
Tan said that even now, Subic’s tourism outlook appeared positive with 99 percent tourist arrivals in 2022, a number higher than the 89 percent recorded in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
He added that as of June 2023, the Subic Bay Freeport had recorded 5.15 million visitor arrivals and 436,000 tourist arrivals.
“While increasing job generation and tourism patronage has always been our goal for our tourism sector, my leadership now is gearing towards holistic development of the Subic Bay, making it a highly competitive and sustainable business and investment hub,” Tan said.
The SBMA chief explained that the goal is to improve the investment climate in Subic to attract more investors, increase revenue, and generate more resilient jobs for residents in neighboring communities.
Some 200 TCP members, tourism stakeholders and guests attended the consultative meeting that focused on the theme “Sustainable Tourism: Leading the Recovery and Profitability of Business Operation in the Post-Pandemic Era.”
Subic reached its heyday in tourism beginning February 2018 when it launched its cruise tourism program under then Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, initially attracting smaller ships like Costa Atlantica with just over 2,000 passengers, before reining in some of the world’s biggest—the Ovation of the Seas and the Spectrum of the Seas, both of which had almost 5,000 passengers and crew.
The SBMA said it had confirmed 38 cruise ship arrivals and two tentative bookings for 2020, as well as four confirmed arrivals and one tentative booking for 2021, before the Covid-19 pandemic scuttled the program in March 2020.
Still, the tested formula and new innovations may work a similar magic for Subic. Tan said the SBMA is also looking at establishing public e-vehicle transportation system, building a new SBMA corporate center, developing a Smart City project, and formulating sustainability guidelines to complement and drive the growth of local tourism.
The SBMA is also seeking economic cooperation in the Halal industry to make Subic a Muslim-friendly destination, he added.
Image credits: SBMA