RECENTLY added flights between Cebu and Japan are expected to translate to more Japanese tourist arrivals this year.
GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Inc. (GMCAC), the private company managing the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), sees the increase in flight frequencies as a boost in making the Japanese market the next big tourism opportunity for central and southern Philippines.
“Japan is an important market for Cebu and the rest of the country. The entry of new flights to Cebu makes us more attractive as a destination especially for Japanese tourists who are fascinated with Cebu’s unique blend as a business and leisure destination,” said GMCAC chief executive adviser Andrew Harrison in a statement.
The MCIA is connected to three destinations in Japan—Nagoya, Osaka and Narita.
Cebu’s connection to Japan recently got a boost following the entry of Vanilla Air Inc.
Last Dec. 25, Vanilla Air Inc., a company owned by ANA Holdings Inc., launched its daily direct flights from Narita to Cebu, making it the fifth international destination in the airline’s route network.
It is the first Japanese airline to fly direct from Narita to Cebu.
Vanilla Air currently operates from Tokyo (Narita) to Taipei, Kaohsiung, Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City aside from several domestic destinations: Sapporo, Hakodate, Osaka, Amami-Oshima and Okinawa.
According to Department of Tourism (DOT), one of the most important accomplishments of the Philippine delegation during President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Japan last October was clinching the deal with Vanilla Air to mount direct flights between Tokyo (Narita) and Cebu, as it would ensure a stronger visibility for the Japanese tourists’ “vacation destination,” Cebu.
Japan is fast becoming a favorite travel destination among Filipinos. The country is home to 19 World Heritage Sites and popular tourist attractions.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies from Cebu to Nagoya thrice weekly and seven times a week to Osaka. The 25-times weekly Cebu to Narita flights are served by PAL, Cebu Pacific and Japanese low-cost carrier Vanilla Air.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 is keen on tapping markets in China, Taiwan, and Japan, which garnered the highest growth rates among the 2016 top 10 tourist markets in Central Visayas. Japan is Cebu’s second biggest tourist source market after Korea.
The DOT last October got the nod of the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), Japan’s biggest travel association, to promote new Philippine destinations in the same way they marketed Cebu to become many Japanese tourists’ favorite destination.
“With JATA’s renewed commitment to promote the Philippines, the DOT could only anticipate the Japanese market to rise to number one in generating inbound tourists,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said.
Focus on connections
Meanwhile, Harrison said GMCAC is focused on developing more international connectivity as the opening of a new airport terminal set in June 2018 draws closer.
MCIA’s Terminal 2, which is under construction, will boost the airport’s passenger carrying capacity to 15 million passengers a year from the current 4.5 million passengers.
MCIA currently serves a total of 14 international destinations and 26 domestic destinations with 19 partner airlines.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 09, 2017.
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