SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — With its growing number of cruise ship arrivals, the Subic Bay Freeport expects to cement its reputation further as the newest cruise ship destination in Asia and top anchor tourist attraction in the Philippines today.
Counting on its natural beach and forest attractions, numerous theme parks, and historical landmarks, Subic now charms regular calls by cruise liners from Chinese premium brand Dream Cruises of Genting Hong Kong, as well as the Italian-flagged vessels of Costa Crociere.
“It’s a phenomenal experience,” says Wilma T. Eisma, who is chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the Philippine government agency that manages the Subic Bay Freeport. Just a year ago, the indefatigable lady executive decided to carve a new tourism niche and invited cruise ship company officials to take a good look at Subic, which has been trying to win over cruise liners since shedding off its image as a military base in 1992.
The 17 cruise ship arrivals that Subic hosted last year beginning February had emboldened the SBMA to initiate complementation programs with nearby communities that could offer curated experiences to tourists.
Subic, as an anchor destination, would farm out cruise ship passengers to these new attractions, letting them earn tourist dollars on their own. In turn, Subic’s home-grown partners would further buttress Subic’s attractiveness and claim to tourism fame—a mutually beneficial arrangement that has resulted in more local tourism business.
Chairman Eisma says that Subic expects more ship arrivals in the coming months, with some of them staying overnight, thanks to a new law that eased the entry of foreign nationals via the Subic sea ports and extended them a visa-free stay of 14 days similar to those entering though the Subic airport.
“This is a game-changer for Subic,” says Chairman Eisma. “This arrangement is less complicated, and thus we foresee Subic Bay to become an even bigger tourist magnet and anchor destination in the country.”