CEBU’s recognition as the “Best Island in Asia” came timely as tourism stakeholders work doubly hard in enticing local travelers to re-experience Cebu’s wealth of tourist attractions.

Condé Nast’s “The Best Islands in the World: 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards,” declared Cebu as the best island in Asia beating other favorites like Phuket, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia. Three other Philippine islands made it to the top 10 list—Boracay (6th), Siargao (5th) and Palawan (4th).

“We are not surprised. The credit goes to the hardworking Cebuanos and Visayans. Last month Marine Diving Tokyo 2020 also proclaimed Cebu, Bohol and other spots in Central Visayas as the top diving spots in the world. These and more accolades serve as inspiration as we work closely with our local government units, government officials, national agencies, stakeholders and micro, small and medium enterprises towards reinvention and recovery,” Department of Tourism 7 Director Shahlimar Tamano told SunStar Cebu.

Cebu and Visayas garnered a 95.83 score from surveyed travelers followed by Sri Lanka (95.45), Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand (95.30), Palawan (95.22), Siargao (95.19), Boracay (95.06), Lombok, Indonesia (94.59), Phuket, Thailand (94.12), Bali, Indonesia (93.27) and Koh Samui, Thailand (92.73).

Travelers described Cebu as a tourist drawer with nearly two million tourists annually who travel for its pristine beaches and dive spots in Cebu’s northern coast.

Condé Nast highlighted Cebu’s rich history and culture citing the province’s strong Spanish and Roman Catholic influences. It also mentioned the Basilica Minore del So. Niño that houses a small statue of Christ that was presented by Ferdinand Magellan.

Cebu’s natural attractions such as the Kawasan Falls in the south impressed foreign guests.

“Kawasan Falls, a swimming hole and series of three waterfalls near Cebu’s southwest coast, is popular with locals and tourists alike. Really popular—avoid visiting on weekends, and hike past the first of the falls to find a quieter spot,” the travel magazine said.

Strong branding, appeal

Cebu Alliance of Tour Operation Specialists president Alice Queblatin said the recognition reinforced Cebu’s strong appeal to tourists.

“This recognition reinforces time and again, the appeal and brand promise of Cebu as a top tourism destination. It says that what tourists look for, Cebu has it: a good mix of urban comforts, culture and excitement from island adventure activities,” she said.

Queblatin said the positive perception of Cebu should inspire and help tourism recovery efforts.

“But it poses a challenge to do more, not only to sustain, but to exceed tourists’ expectations. While it’s not an easy task in these trying times, focused collaboration of all could be the answer,” she said.

Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu president Carlo Suarez also welcomed the recognition, saying that it will keep Cebu on top of the minds of the regional and international leisure travelers as well as meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions planners.

“Despite a challenging 2020 due to Covid-19, the hospitality industry is steadfastly promoting our island as one of the best tourist destinations in the Philippines. Because Cebu has one of the most welcoming and efficient airports in the country, this huge advantage gives us point of differentiation by providing tourists an easy starting spot whether it’s to explore the north to south of Cebu or visit other nearby Visayas sites,” Suarez said.

According to Tamano, global recognitions are huge marketing thrusts.

He said it came at a right time when Cebu Province is gradually reopening all of its attractions to the local guests.

At present, the DOT 7 is documenting farm and outdoor accommodation places to make sure they are ready to be promoted under the new normal.

6,000 voters

Around the same month last year, Cebu was hailed as the second best island in Asia. Boracay Island ranked first while Palawan was in the fourth spot.

Condé Nast Traveler readers ranked the 35 best islands in the world outside the US in this year’s survey.

Writer Caitlin Morton said for its 33rd annual survey, a record 600,000 registered voters weighed in.

This year, though, Condé Nast has broken the best list by region: the best in Asia, Australia and the South Pacific, Caribbean and the Atlantic, Europe, North America, and best in the rest of the world. (with KOC)