CEBU ~ More than the Usual

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Boasting 7,107 sun-drenched islands, diverse flora and fauna, rich marine life, the world’s best beaches, crafts and arts, easy access to sea and mountains, and abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, the Philippines is one of the most desired tourist destinations in the world. At the center of the Philippine archipelago is Cebu – an island, a province and a city.


It is the top tourist destination in the country and, next to the capital (Manila), the most accessible point in the Philippines with the most number of air and sea linkages.  It is known as the Philippines’ Bestseller and, until recently, its best kept-secret for attracting multitudes of tourists, traders, investors, educators, students, and professionals to the country.


Cebu has always been a unique proposition:  it melds the rustic charms, relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, and tropical beauties of lush island life – with that of a bustling, progressive metropolis, bursting with a dynamic entrepreneurial base and a multi-ethnic people highly receptive to international business and tourism.  


Consistently a net exporter and top foreign exchange earner, Cebu makes no secret of its desire to learn from the development models of Singapore and Hong Kong.  It is the one area in the Philippines that can seriously pursue the viability of converting and proclaiming its entire island as a special economic zone.

Cebu and tourism has long been a perfect match: convenient infrastructure, hospitable people, beautiful beaches and dive sites, world-class resorts, secure location.  And because Cebu attracts the best of its people, it has a culture for innovation and adapting to changing environments, and access to a veritable trove of talents and resources.  It is poised to offer another attraction that heretofore has been kept out of the spotlight in investment and tourism promotions ~ Cebu’s healthcare and wellness industry.

It is a fairly new and growing sector with medical and wellness services increasingly appreciated and sought by locals (who come from different cities and provinces in the country), balikbayans (Filipinos residing/working abroad and visiting the homeland) and foreigners (mainly tourists, retirees, expatriates and students) in Cebu.  As an investment priority industry entitled to receive government incentives with a largely under-tapped market, the health and wellness sector is also an investment opportunity for those who wish to partner with Cebu’s healthcare and wellness providers.


Tourism in Cebu

Cebu is the business, educational, medical, transport and tourism center in Central and Southern Philippines. Facilities and infrastructures are well-placed, resorts and hotels enjoy high occupancy rates, Foreign Direct Investors (FDIs) number by the hundreds, and multi-million dollar investments are poured in yearly.  Foreign visitors have continually set record highs – eager to experience the resorts and dive spots, the mix of rural-cosmopolitan lifestyle, and even enroll in the “English as a Second Language,” or ESL schools that populate in this province.

It is very strategically located at the heart of the Philippines, the Central Visayas Region, which was declared by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the Supra Region for Tourism in the country.  In her speech during the opening of the Philippine International Tourism Fair (PITF) last year, the President hailed Cebu as the “tourism mecca” of the Philippines.  


Stakeholders know that, in due time, Cebu has what it takes to be a well-known world-class destination – being a strategic gateway accounting for 50% of foreign arrivals in the country, and a vibrant, self-sufficient economy that remains largely immune to any adverse political upheavals in the nation’s capital.

Its international airport, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport is the country’s second major international gateway, the busiest airport outside Metro Manila, and the most important transport facility in Central and Southern Philippines.

Cebu also has a wide array of hotel, convention and resort facilities that include international names such as the Shangri-la, Marriott, Hilton, Waterfront, Marco Polo, Microtel, and others.  Moreover, it is endowed with natural and ecological sites that are conducive to healing and restoration of health and well-being. More investments in accommodation facilities are urgently needed as Cebu expects sustained growth in the tourism sector.  Cebu currently has 12,500 rooms, contributing about 4.5 million room nights.  But the demand by 2012 calls for twice that inventory.

Cebu is not only a world-class beach-oriented destination but, as the oldest city in the Philippines – it is also a historical, cultural, religious and heritage destination.

Medical and Wellness Tourism

Cebu has state-of-the art medical facilities that can deliver the same services as in other countries, not only in the field of surgery but also in other medical services.

Dr. Philip S. Chua, VP-Far East Operations, Cardiovascular Hospitals of America and Chairman-Cardiovascular Surgery, Cebu Cardiovascular Center, Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital points out that “The Philippines, Cebu in particular, could be a center for Medical tourism, a potential Health mecca, and earn for our country and this city an enviable international prestige as a world-class haven for quality healthcare in the Far East.”

Cebu has a viable network of public and private hospitals, specialty clinics other health facilities.  The Philippine Department of Health has licensed and accredited the following medical institutions in Cebu: 27 private-licensed hospitals, 29 government hospitals and 2 ambulatory surgical clinics.

There are 25 schools in Cebu producing around 4,000 health professionals annually.


Hospital and specialty clinics services

Cebu has three major hospitals in Metro Cebu that continue to invest in modern facilities and equipment, employ competent healthcare professionals, and deliver quality service at par with international medical institutions: the Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital; Chong Hua Hospital; and Perpetual Succour Hospital.

From cardiologists to orthopedic surgeons, dentists to cosmetic surgeons, ophthalmologists to physical therapists – Cebu’s 3 major hospitals can provide the whole range of services.

Post-Operative Care / Recuperation

As the top tourist destination in the country, Cebu hosts a large number of spas, massage centers and other wellness services to facilitate recovery and relaxation.  Even as the medical tourist or patient is undergoing diagnosis or treatment, his or her companion can avail of this wide range of wellness options.

There are about 10 hotel/resort-based luxury spas that already cater to the international market such as the Chi Spa Village of the Shangri-La ‘s Mactan Isalnd and Resort & Spa; the Mogambo Springs in Plantation Bay; The Spa at Cebu Hilton Resort; Amuma of Maribago Bluewaters Resort; the Alegre in the north of Cebu; the Pulchra Beach Resort’s Undina Spa and the Badian Island Resort & Spa in the southern part of Cebu.

There are more than 200 day-spas, smaller locally operated healing and massage centers and wellness establishments that are frequently used by the locals, partly, and also by tourists. Upmarket day spas receive a more significant number of tourists (Japanese, Koreans) for treatment, mostly via tour agencies and guides, such as the 1.5 hectare (15,000 sqm) The Spa at Cebu, one of the biggest indoor spas in Cebu with over 100 beds.  At Cebu’s AsiaTown IT Park, there is also a new retail complex with health spa and pamper centers such as the Alibyo Boutique Spa, which specializes in the authentic Filipino massage therapy called the “Pinoy Hilot.”

So, when you’re thinking of combining your health treatment with a vacation on a tropical island, think Cebu.  Definitely more than the usual Medical Travel – come to Cebu to experience the unique Filipino touch of “Healing hands, Caring hearts.”

CEBU HEALTH AND WELLNESS COUNCIL – TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP

c/o Ms. Nelia V. Flores-Navarro, Provincial Director
DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY (DTI) – Cebu Provincial Office
3rd Floor, LDM Bldg., corner Legaspi Street and M.J. Cuenco Avenue, Cebu City 6000, Philippines
Tel: (63-32) 253.2631, 255.7082, 412.1863   Fax: (63-32) 412.1856, 254.0840
E-mail: dticebuphil@yahoo.com; dticebuphil@gmail.com


Created last January 2008 in Cebu City, Philippines, the Cebu Health and Wellness Council (CHWC) is a Private-Public sector coalition of industry stakeholders that shall set the directions in developing and promoting the Health and Wellness industry in Cebu. It is currently represented by the following sectors in Cebu:  Hospital / Medical services; Dental services; Spa and Wellness services; Hospitality services; Travel and Tours services; and the government sector’s Department of Health (DOH), Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).