CLARK FREEPORT -- Various stakeholders in arts, culture, tourism and travel have expressed optimism on the contribution of new flights at the Clark International Airport.

This, following the latest domestic flights recently launched by Philippines AirAsia, which now makes Clark airport as one of the busiest airports in the Philippines.

AirAsia, voted nine times as World's Best Low Cost Carrier, launched fights to key cities Iloilo, Tacloban and Puerto Princesa, giving rise to more opportunities not just for trade and commerce but also in arts and cultural exchanges

"We can have interactions for business, trade, products plus collaboration with different artists. There are lots of artists in Iloilo region," said Philip Torres.

Torres is a leading fashion designer in Central Luzon. He was in the maiden flight of the thrice weekly Clark-Iloilo route.

"We can promote our festivals, culinary, arts and culture. I can also source fabrics there," said Torres.

He is known for his Pidayit, a fashionable clothing made from scraps or fragments of fabrics. His designs were one of the sidelights in the Asean Summit held in the Philippines last year.

Major players in the travel industry are also upbeat by the additional flights by Air Asia.

Gilda Padua, director of Greater Clark Visitors Bureau, said the flights would help in the promotion of Pampanga and Clark.

"Clark flights provide additional destination for us. They provide connectivity. From Clark or Iloilo, you can take international destinations (onwards)," Padua said.

"We can push for Pampanga tourism in the region and vice versa. The flight is an opportunity for us to help promote our place," she added.

On Saturday, February 3, AirAsia launched three additional fights to the Visayas region from Clark. These are Clark-Iloilo, Clark-Puerto Princesa (Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday) and Clark-Tacloban (Monday-Wednesday-Friday).

Last year, it started Clark flights to Kalibo and Caticlan, also in Visayas and a route to Mindanao region via Davao City. It uses Airbus A320s.

Alex Cauguiran, CIAC president, said the additional flights of AirAsia bring to 434 the total flights per week at Clark. Of these, 160 are regional and international flights. He said the average daily flights number to 62.

In the Philippines, Cauguiran said, the archipelago is now connected to Clark. This airport in Mabalacat, Pampanga only had Cebu flights for its domestic service one year ago.

"Practically, Clark is now connected with almost every major cities in the country," he said.