New inter-regional air links to boost travel and tourism

Jul 25, 2012


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Local tourism officials and domestic airlines are forging new links between regional destinations not previously linked by air travel to boost travel and tourism between the newly connected points.


For instance, Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) recently brought five travel writers from Cagayan de Oro to Iloilo and toured them around the city and province to familiarize them with tourist destinations which Cagay-anons might find wish to explore. A return visit by Iloilo journalists to Cagayan de Oro is in the works.


“Connectivity really plays a vital role in tourism promotion that’s why that’s where we really focus our promotion efforts,” said Atty. Helen J. Catalbas, regional tourism director for West Visayas during a briefing for the writers.


CEB has been flying thrice weekly on the Cagayan de Oro-Iloilo route since October 2011 and has moved some 14,600 passengers for the five-month period till March 2012, data from the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) shows. An even better volume has been attained by the airline on the Zamboanga-Tawi Tawi route which flies daily and already moved 31,200 over the same period.


“We are working closely with Cebu Pacific to encourage the sizable Ilonggo community in Bukidnon’s third district to come visit Iloilo now a convenient air link has been established to their hometown,” Ms. Catalbas said.


Majority of airline commuters from Bukidnon take their flights to Manila and Cebu from Cagayan de Oro’s Lumbia Airport, she noted.


At present, CEB operates 54 domestic and 28 international routes. The domestic total is expected to rise further to 84 by August with the opening of the Davao-Kalibo and Davao-Puerto Princesa routes.


Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) figures show the Iloilo Airport at Cabatuan is the fourth busiest airport in the country and operates 18 hrs daily from 5am-11pm. In 2011 it registered totals of 14,892 aircraft movements, transported 1,710,897 passengers and handled 11,615.244 metric tons of cargo.


Cagayan de Oro’s Lumbia Airport plays a very similar role like Iloilo Airport as the regional hub for air commuters from the four provinces and nine cities of Northern Mindanao (Region X) and even serves passengers from as far away as the Caraga, Lanao and Zamboanga regions. CAAP figures from 2011 show Lumbia had 14,644 aircraft movements; moved 1,471,432 passengers and handled 16,231.043 metric tons of cargo.


Besides Cagayan de Oro, Ms. Catalbas said DOT Region 6 is also encouraging domestic carriers to link Iloilo Airport to Puerto Princesa and General Santos where there are a lot of Ilonggos and Western Visayans.  


“We have noted a significant increase in domestic tourism from Gensan due to family ties,” Ms. Catalbas said. “DOT already considers them tourists if they have moved to Gensan and come here to visit their relatives.”


Already, the DOT is looking forward to the imminent international operations of the Iloilo Airport to further boost inter-regional air traffic from these destinations.


“We know many of the Ilonggos living in these areas are employed abroad so they can also use Iloilo Airport when it starts international operations to take direct flights to Hong Kong and Singapore instead of going to Manila or Cebu,” Ms. Catalbas noted.


To further promote inter-regional travel, DOT Western Visayas will be joining the Mindanao Tourism Fair in Davao City later this year to invite Western Visayans to come back to their roots and re-establish ties with families and long-lost friends.


Ms. Catalbas said Iloilo enjoys a symbiotic relationship with its top domestic tourism markets in the National Capital Region, Cebu and Davao.


Cebu Pacific is widely credited with sparking the boom in domestic travel and tourism with its drastically reduced fares, encouraging Filipinos to travel all over the country.


Online sales of travel and tourism products and services due to increasing internet penetration and easy access to credit/debit cards by tourists in the 10-30 years age group which makes up the bulk of internet users in the Philippines experienced increasing travel and tourism in 2010.


Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao are among the nine priority clusters for investments and development identified under  the recently minted National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) based on the “identification of secondary gateways as premier entry points” to these areas, said Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz, for Tourism Planning and Promotions.

Mr. Corpuz also identified limited flights and seat capacities, including the poor quality and limited capacity of international and domestic transportation and infrastructure destination, and other restrictions that have limited market access among the constraints which have hampered the attainment of tourism sector targets.

To overcome these constraints, Mr. Corpuz said the DOT will undertake strategic directions and programs—such as improvement of market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure;

The DOT said the implementation of the NTDP would raise the contribution of the tourism sector to 8.1 percent of the gross domestic product from the current 5.8 percent; and “directly employ 6.8 million that will account for 17 percent of total employment.”

The 10 million tourist target of the NTDP is expected to increase the tourism sector’s GDP percentage to 9% by 2016.


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