Tourism sector needs ‘more links, direct flights, lower landing fees’-A A +A
By Mia A. Aznar
Thursday, March 21, 2013
RATHER than keep tourism efforts within each nation, members of the Asian Council of Tourism hope to convince stakeholders that they need to establish other links to boost tourism.
During the group’s breakout session at the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI) conference last week in the Radisson Blu Hotel, session chairman George Abraham said the industry needs to study the possibility of linking with other countries to get a spillover effect.
He cited as an example his own country Singapore, which takes advantage of its proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia to offer more experiences to tourists.
Stewart Forbes, executive director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hopes the CACCI will help encourage the operation of low-cost carriers (LCCs) and take up market access issues with government.
He noted that on his flight from Malaysia to Cebu, the flight was not full and he worries that if it continues to be as empty as it was, the airline might eventually cancel the route.
He hopes CACCI can lobby for lower landing fees for LCCs and other measures to encourage more routes linking smaller destinations.
Sergei Solokhnenko, who represented the Philippine Pelagos Tours and Travel, which caters only to Russian tourists, said the lack of direct flights can be frustrating for Russian tourists. Most of them barely speak English and in coming to the Philippines, they have to change flights at airports in Hong Kong or Korea, sometimes waiting for as long as 10 hours.
He believes more Russian tourists would come if they have direct flights.
For speaker Robert Lim Joseph, chairman emeritus of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (Naitas) in the Philippines, the Aquino government has done well for tourism by making it a priority and getting the Department of Public Works and Highways to support it by shelling out P10 to P20 billion in infrastructure projects.
Though the budget allocation for tourism is still small, he pointed out that it has increased to P2.5 billion, allowing them P500 million for promotion and advertising.
Joseph admitted this amount is “peanuts” compared to what other countries shell out for advertising and promotions, but said they are carefully planning where to place advertisements and attending global tourism conferences to promote the country.
Even without direct flights from Europe to the country, there has still been an increase in tourists from Europe and the Middle East, he reported.
Joseph also cited efforts to promote the Philippines as a MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) destination, and a health and wellness destination, saying the country now has hospitals with the equipment to treat different conditions and these are accredited by international insurance providers.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 21, 2013.