THE Clark International Airport (CRK) capped 2013 with the Clark-Shanghai twice-a-week flights via Cebu Pacific that started on Saturday, closing the vibrant year marked by the entry of long-haul flights courtesy of Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways.

It had been a productive year for the Clark airport, now one of the busiest airports in the country serving more and more destinations with the entry of new key players in the aviation industry. More airlines are seriously considering to relocate in the Clark airport amid the ongoing expansion of the Clark passenger terminal.

Clark International Airport Corporation President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano expressed optimism that the coming year will bring in more positive developments in the Clark airport, which elicited the attention of the aviation industry worldwide notably in the World Routes meet where Clark airport is a regular participant.

If ever, the Clark-Shanghai flights will attract Chinese high rollers to the casinos in the Clark Freeport Zone such as the Fontana Leisure and Resorts, which previously benefitted from the temporary flights between China and Clark in the past.

Cebu Pacific will fly between Clark and the highly urbanized city of Shanghai twice a week under an exclusive arrangement with Jack Lam's Fontana Resorts and Casino. Filipino travelers will also have the opportunity to visit Shanghai and visit landmarks such as “The Bund,” which is a symbol of Shanghai and its modern history. The Bund is very famous, particularly at night, when colorful lights illuminate the whole Bund area. From the Bund area, view the skyline of Puxi and be awed by the 88-storey Jin Mao Tower in the Pudong New Area. They say the attraction of Shanghai is on the street level where various street food is being served at night.

Similarly, our local tourism can take advantage of these Clark-Shanghai flights and drumbeat the allure of our local tourism destinations. The Department of Tourism says it will exceed its inbound tourism target of 5 million this 2013 as campaigns to expand foreign and domestic tourism have gained the much-needed momentum despite the natural disasters that attended the country.

"We are confident of exceeding the 5-million mark at the end of the year," said Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. The DOT expects at least 5.5 million foreign tourists visiting the country this year and 35 million residents going on domestic tours.

Local tourism areas such as Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Davao, and Puerto Princesa are still the favored destinations but the tourism officials in Northern and Central Luzon had been promoting tourist destinations in both regions in an effort to ease the pressure on mainstream tourism destinations and generate income opportunities.

Currently, South Korea remains the largest tourism source followed by Japan and China. With the Clark-Shanghai flights, more Chinese tourists are expected to visit Central and Northern Luzon as Clark airport strives to be the "Airport of the North."

Cebu Pacific will use a 124-seater Airbus A319 for the Shanghai-Clark flights, according to Luciano, who also said that the new flights are in the offing to other destinations in mainland China such as Guangzhou.