The Philippine government is aiming to improve and upgrade air capacity across the country, in an effort to boost international tourism.
The country is one of the largest in Southeast Asia and has a wealth of natural visitor attractions, but it still lags behind regional rivals like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam in terms of visitor arrivals. And one of the main reasons for this is the island nation’s perceived inaccessibility.
“Being an archipelago of over 7,100 islands which obviously do not enjoy cross-border passage like our neighbours, it’s inevitable to recognise the urgent need for improved international air access to facilitate tourists’ entry into the country,” said Benito Bengzon Jr, undersecretary at the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DoT).
“In the absence of border-crossing travels as in those in Indochina, we need more direct flights to visitor destinations all over the country.”
The Philippines welcomed just 5.97 million international visitors in 2016, less than a fifth of Thailand’s total and half that of city state Singapore. But the recent opening of new air routes to secondary gateways, such as Cebu and Kalibo, and increased flight frequencies by domestic and international airlines have resulted in increased visitor arrivals from countries including South Korea, the US, China and Japan.
Bengzon said the DoT is now working closely with other agencies, including the Department of Transportation, to improve airport facilities in destinations including Cebu, Kalibo, Clark, Iloilo, Davao and Puerto Princesa. He also revealed that talks are ongoing with several countries about expanding bilateral air service agreements.
With these measures in place, the Philippines is planning to more than double its international visitor total to 12 million arrivals by 2022.