Airport tourism

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By Andy H. Hagad

Bottom Line

Monday, January 28, 2013


WITH assurances coming from no less than President Benigno Aquino III that additional immigration personnel and facilities will be placed at the Bacolod-Silay Airport to allow it to receive passengers direct from abroad, the focus should now be to make passenger service at the airport itself acceptable by international standards. Here, much more work and effort is definitely needed.

First off, the complaints about the poor maintenance of the toilets should immediately be addressed. When we Filipinos travel abroad, one of the first things that we would normally comment about upon landing at the airport of destination is the state of its toilets, whether or not they are clean, adequately furnished and working properly. And why not? We invariably seek out the toilet as soon as we arrive, anticipating a long trip from the airport to wherever we are going. I do not doubt that foreigners landing at the Bacolod-Silay Airport will also have the same thing in mind, and that is why the toilets are an important point-of-first-impression.

Customs and Immigration personnel have to be both efficient and courteous. As tourists in a foreign country, it certainly pleases us no end if the people manning the customs and immigration counters are polite, friendly and solicitous. They can be very strict in making sure our entry to their country is legitimate in every respect, but it’s the manner that they perform it that determines whether or not we will back-bite them when we get home.

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Then there is the matter of the airport porters. The airport is equipped with a fully-functioning conveyor belt where passenger luggage is swiftly and efficiently transferred from the plane over to its owners. There are more than enough trolleys for passengers to load their things on and cart them outside to their waiting vehicles. I therefore see no reason for the horde of porters inside the arrival area who pester passengers for their luggage, insisting on helping the reluctant arrival, even following him to his vehicle over his protestations.

The presence of porters outside the arrival area is alright, but they should assist only passengers who ask for assistance. Our airport officials must see to it that the passengers are not harassed by the porters. Foreigners are used to taking care of their luggage by themselves because porters are not common in most major airports outside of the Philippines. It is therefore shocking for a tourist to be hounded by them, and our airport officials need to prevent that.

It may also help if the airport has someone assigned to see to it that passengers needing transportation are directed to the right public or private vehicles-for-hire. We know of unscrupulous operators who over-charge their passengers, especially if they are foreign tourists or strangers to our city and province. Airport personnel know them too. Our guests have to be protected from them.

Our city and our province have a lot to offer tourists. City Administrator John Orola has already tapped one of these—our three golf courses. We also have beaches and mountain resorts, the best restaurants in the country and the friendliest people around. To foreigners who get ecstatic at a simple carabao ride, a massage beside a gurgling river or at a chance to shop at ridiculously-cheap prices, Bacolod and Negros Occidental are portions of heaven-on-earth.

But first impressions are vital to the success of any tourism program. If we wish to develop our tourism potential, the Bacolod-Silay Airport must have the first focus of our attention. If they are happy and satisfied tourists upon arrival, chances are they will anticipate more happiness and satisfaction outside the airport and they will be more than willing to have us prove our worth. But their satisfaction must begin from the time they land.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 28, 2013.

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