Cebu tourism not threatened by Iloilo int’l flights

WITH the Iloilo airport opening its first international direct flight to and from Hong Kong and Singapore via Cebu Pacific Air tomorrow, some Cebu tourism stakeholders see this as a positive boost for tourist traffic.

Nigel Paul Villarete, general manager of the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), said the diversion of direct flights to Iloilo “will have an effect at first”, but added that tourism arrivals in Cebu will stabilize in the long run.

“It's part of the tourism department's program to reach 10 million tourists by 2016. We will benefit as we increase the portion of MCIA arrivals to those who are really our market. Iloilo has a different market than Cebu,” he told Cebu Daily News.

Villarete said it would even be an advantage to the MCIA if South Koreans, the largest market for the country, fly directly to Iloilo.

“The MCIA is congested and over capacity for the next three years,” he said.

A passenger terminal building in MCIA that was identified as a priority of the Aquino administration is scheduled to begin construction next year.

Iloilo province already has a sizable share of the South Korean tourist market along with Cebu, Manila, Davao and other parts of the country.

“Boracay visitors can go directly to Kalibo and Caticlan airports,” said Villarete.

In a statement, Hotel Resort and Restaurant Association president Hans Hauri said the opening of international flights in Iloilo will open the country to more international markets.

“The more direct connections we have between the Philippines and major cities in the Asian rim, the better prospects for an increase in tourist arrivals. In this case, we will see a number of seats vacant to Cebu but with the growing demand for Cebu, that gap will be quickly filled,” said Hauri.

Hauri agreed with Villarete saying that the new direct access will ease congestion in the MCIA especially those just passing by Cebu to go home to Iloilo.

“I suspect that the travellers from Singapore to Iloilo are mostly seamen, who anyway just transited in Cebu to a connecting flight. Iloilo is the center of formation of seafarers,” said Hauri.

Islands Group president Jay Aldeguer said the new development cannot be avoided if the country wants to grow the tourism industry.

“Overall it would be good for the Philippines. This is inevitable as the country continues to progress. In the long run more access to new destinations will give visitors more choices other than the usual Cebu, Boracay and Palawan, which is good for the country’s economy,” said Aldeguer.

Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph said competition is a good dynamic and added that he hopes Cebu will respond to this new competition positively and proactively.

“Tourists, however, may opt to enter the region through Iloilo instead of Cebu, so we must fight to compete for the tourism hub market,” Joseph added.

Regional Director Rowena Montecillo of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7) said Cebu should not feel threatened and instead see the new development as a new gateway to get more tourists.

“Soon we expect other airports to be upgraded in Region 8 and in Region 5....Access is considered an ace for tourism and that is exactly what we want to happen,” Montecillo said.

Region 6 DOT Regional Director Helen Catalbas said in a recent Inquirer report that they expect tourism arrival in the region to increase 15 percent this year over the 2.47 million tourist arrivals last year.

Like Central Visayas, Region 6 or Western Visayas is also a major tourism region with Boracay as their most popular site.

“This will definitely have an impact on our national figures this year. We are even more optimistic to hit the target of 10 million international tourists by 2016,” said Montecillo.

As of September this year, arrivals in the Philippines already reached 3.1 million or an increase of 9.08 percent year-on-year and only 1.5 million shy of the national target of 4.5 million this year which they are optimistic to hit with more tourists expected to come for the holiday season. /Aileen Garcia-Yap, Reporter with Deputy Editor Stephen Capillas.

Source: Cebu Daily News

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