Cruise ships docked at Pier 15 of Manila South Harbor (Photo courtesy of DOT)

MANILA – Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Teo on Wednesday said the boost in sea connectivity in the years to come is worth looking forward to as more cruise lines are set to visit Manila for the first time.

"The country’s sea connectivity will receive a significant boost in the succeeding years with new major cruise lines including the Norwegian Cruise Lines, Windstar Cruises arriving in the Philippines shores for the first time," Teo said.

She said several cruise ships will also be returning and some even increased port calls including MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ Ovation of the Seas, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow, and Crystal Cruises.

In an article published in Forbes magazine on March 28, 2018, the Philippines is recognized as among five of the "hottest" spots in Asia booming with tourists in 2018.

The country's improved connectivity and infrastructure were mentioned as factors for the increased tourism interest, aligned with the continent’s must-visit destinations like Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Korea.

Teo said to be lined-up in the region’s tourism powerhouse reflects the country's perseverance to restore image as a "safe and fun destination."

Aside from a positive outlook with the country's sea connectivity, there is optimism on tourism spur as the government plans to improve domestic airports, a move set to attract more local and foreign visitors to frequent top destinations in the Philippines.

International gateways have experienced renovations while regional airports such as the Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental, and New Bohol International Airport in Panglao are now up for development.

Improved air connectivity and the opening of new flights are also expected with the country’s hosting of Routes Asia 2019, the only route development event dedicated to the Asia Pacific region, in Cebu next year.

In 2018, tourism statistics showed that promotion of the country's destination, on top of government efforts to further improve accessibility, has resulted in increased visitor arrivals.

For the first two months of the year, the Philippines welcomed a total of 1,406,337 international visitors, which is 16.15 percent higher compared to the 1,210,817 total for the same period in 2017. (PNA)