Davao losing to Cebu because of lack of convention center

Mary Ann Montemayor, East ASEAN Growth Area Tourism Council chair, said Cebu’s International Convention Center, venue of the recent ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in January, is pulling business away from Davao despite the city’s unique tourism advantages.

"How much Cebu is earning, that’s what we are losing," Montemayor said in a press conference Wednesday.

She said the project could be built as a joint venture between the government and local businessmen. Montemayor said the convention center would require "a huge investment" but added it doesn’t have to be like Cebu‘s CICC.

She said the joint venture can follow the model of Malaysia‘s tourist city, Langkawi, which hosted the ASEAN Tourism Forum in 2005, a year before Davao hosted it. Langkawi experienced a boom after the Malaysian government built a large exhibition-convention hall.

She said the ball is now with the private sector as government, which she said is keen on the project, is waiting for a proposal.

Already, she said, four businessmen have expressed interest. But Montemayor said government needs to announce more incentives to get more people interested.

Special incentives, she said, could be offered like tax exemption and fast business registration. She said the Davao City Investment Promotion Center is aggressive in its campaign.

But the government, she said, could craft more special offers like exclusive booking of government events in the convention center.

The Cebu Provincial Government built the CICC in time for the 12th Asean Summit and 2nd East ASEAN Summit at a cost of around US$10-million dollars. It is a three-storey structure with a gross floor area of 28,000 square meters on a 3.8 hectare land at the Mandaue City Reclamation Area in Metro Cebu.

She said Cebu’s tourism prospects lag behind that of Davao but the latter could not compete with the city in the Meetings Incentives Conventions and Exhibits (MICE) industry.

Montemayor said more players wanted to come here for the Packaging Congress late last year but didn’t push through because of space constraints for exhibits.

Davao City, she said, also lost in the bid to host the Philippine Ad Congress because of the venue problem.

She said most MICE organizers require big venues for big events. Existing venues are either too small for many local and international events or are not available anymore. She cited the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ convention hall and the Apo View Hotel ballroom which gave way to a casino.

In its website, Davao City has positioned itself as the convention center of southern Philippines.

The city has become the "preferred destination for conventions and conferences" due to its changing and improving economic and tourism landscape.”

"It attracted organizers to conduct major conventions here instead of proverbial settings like Manila or Cebu," the website said.

"Modern, sophisticated, and state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for conventions and conferences are now readily available. This is equally complemented by the establishment of new first class hotels and mountain resorts,” it added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)