Editorial: Sustaining air connectivity

DAVAO was rejoicing when announcements of international flights were made.

In the past years, when Davao took the limelight in business and tourism, various airlines opened domestic and international direct routes to and from the city.

One is Air Asia's Davao - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia service route.

But after six months of operations, the airline announced on Tuesday, June 26, that the direct route will be suspended effective August 21, 2018.

"We are suspending the Davao- Kuala Lumpur flights due to commercial reasons," Air Asia said in a statement.

The route has failed to maintain an average of 80 percent load factor per flight, a minimum requirement for airlines to sustain an air route.

It was a sad news to all Dabawenyos especially for the businessmen and tourism players.

Record shows that there are actually a good number of passengers from Davao to Kuala Lumpur but not a lot from Kuala Lumpur to Davao.

Why? Davao City tourism officer Generose Tecson said lack of Halal-friendly establishments in Davao City is one of the culprits.

Davao, she said, has only 17 Muslim-friendly establishments in the city and out of this number, only one is Halal-certified. The 16 other establishments were just tagged as Muslim-friendly because of general criteria such as being Muslim-owned and non-pork establishment, among others.

“I think we can attribute this with the cancellation of Davao-Kuala Lumpur flight. Perhaps the passengers from Malaysia searched for possible Halal establishments and restaurants here in the city and did not find a lot,” said Tecson.

She noted that Malaysians are very strict with their Halal requirements and with Davao City not having enough Halal-friendly restaurants and tourism establishments, she said this might be a reason that not many Malaysians have not patronized the direct flight.

Lack of promotion and awareness campaigns from the airline and the local and national tourism industry from each city may also be a factor. Whether this is true or not, it no longer matters. The bottom line: the route failed and the blaming game is never the answer.

Shakers and movers of the industry must learn to be prepared.

Opening a flight can be easy but sustaining it isn't, especially if basic tourism requirements are not secured and met first before the flight launching.

With this, let it be a call to all tourism stakeholders, private and public, tourists included, to continue pushing and exploring other viable and sustainable international destinations for Davao.

However, this is just a setback.

The resilient Davao tourism industry will bounce back in no time just like it used to even in the most tumultuous times.


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