Turning the tide

Cebu’s business events fortunes look set to improve greatly this year, with several new hotels and a wide range of function spaces coming online

Cebu is poised to retain its position as a key business events destination in the Philippines, with newly-minted hotels and resorts coming online to fill the gap for small events.

Moreover, soon to join the fray will be two new convention centres that are much needed for mid-sized events.

Aerial view of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway Bridge which connects Cebu with Mactan Island

“Cebu has all the attributes of a good MICE destination, except that it does not have a convention centre,” said Afro Asian World Events president, Angel Ramos Bognot.

But the city’s fortunes are about to change later this year.

NUSTAR Resort and Casino, Cebu’s first integrated resort, is set to open the 2,000-pax NUSTAR Convention Center in 2Q2023. It will have “versatile event spaces, state of the art amenities and stunning sea views,” shared Jun Cordova, director of sales and marketing at Robinsons Hotels and Resorts/NUSTAR Resort and Casino.

“Later in the year, we also expect to open the ballroom at NUSTAR’s Fili Hotel that can cater to 310 pax. Complementing these new venues are Fili Hotel’s 379 rooms and suites,” Cordova said.

In two years’ time, the Megaworld Hotels and Resort will also be opening the Mactan New Town Convention Center, with a capacity for 1,500 guests banquet-style. The venue will be situated between the 550-key Belmont Hotel and 547-key Savoy Hotel in Mactan.

Jericha T Escriva, Belmont Hotel Mactan assistant director of sales, opined that the Mactan New Town Convention Center will be able to address the shortage of venues in Cebu for large corporate groups.

The Sheraton Cebu Mactan Resort is Marriott International’s first resort in the Philippines; one of its meeting rooms pictured

Mactan Island has also welcomed several top-tier hotels and resorts recently, lured by its proximity to the domestic and international airport and beaches.
The most luxurious of them is the Sheraton Cebu Mactan Resort. The property offers eight indoor meeting venues, the largest being the 727m2 Grand Ballroom that can hold 540 pax for banquets. There are also three meeting rooms, a boardroom, and a pre-function area. All of the indoor spaces have been built to make the most out of the sea view, and allow in natural light.

Other unique spaces on the beach, in the gardens, or in open spaces tastefully dotted with Kenneth Cobonpue installations welcome corporate gatherings too. There is also a roof deck on the 12th floor of the main building that can be transformed into an outdoor events venue.

Sheraton Cebu Mactan Resort’s general manager Dottie Wurgler-Cronin is keen to attract the bleisure – or blended travel – market, seeing how the property is armed with excellent leisure and business facilities.

“Cebu has always been a good destination for leisure and business events”, with a number of Korean and Japanese businesses, as well as the presence of call centres and other industries, located here, Wurgler-Cronin pointed out.

After the hiatus wrought by the pandemic, business events are returning to Cebu, noted Escriva, with a number of local and international events scheduled this year.

The future also looks promising, as Cebu’s provincial government is actively promoting the destination, together with Palawan and Boracay. There are also reports that the provincial government has bought a site in Mandaue meant for a convention centre.

Colliers Philippines associate director, Joey Roi Bondoc, opined: “Cebu is definitely among the major Philippine destinations that will capture gains from revenge travel, (and) retain its stature as a key business and leisure destination.”

Cebu’s need for more hotels and bigger venues are evident from a local medical convention that Shangri-La Resort Mactan will be hosting in July. The resort is unable to accommodate the 1,700 pax, so a number of delegates will have to stay at the nearby Belmont and Savoy.

Bondoc noted: “Colliers Philippines believes that now is an opportune time for developers to consider bringing in foreign hotel brands. Hotel operators should also continue to innovate with their services and tap technology in enhancing the customer experience”.

Bruce Winton, multi-property vice president Philippines of Marriott International, pointed out that another of Cebu’s plus points was the continuous improvement of its infrastructure, such as the building and completion of Mactan Cebu International Airport Terminal 2, and the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway which reduces the travel time between mainland Cebu and Mactan Island.

He added that the new infrastructure helps to improve lives all around, and urged the industry to “keep going”, and “focus on projects that benefit tourism”.

“(With all these developments happening,) surely the Cebu MICE landscape just got more interesting, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Cebu,” Cordova concluded.

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