Qatar announces Cebu comeback

QATAR Airways has identified Cebu and Davao among 16 new destinations they will open between 2018 and 2019.

The airline’s aggressive expansion was announced at the opening day of ITB Berlin, the world’s largest international travel fair.

“Qatar Airways is tremendously excited to announce further expansion with a significant number of new destinations to be added to our extensive global network throughout 2018 and 2019,” said Qatar Group chief executive Akbar al-Baker, in the company’s website.

“This is a direct reflection of our commitment to connecting travelers across all corners of the world in a way that is meaningful and convenient to them. We are committed to continuing our ambitious growth strategy, in order to be able to provide our passengers with as much choice as possible and to take them anywhere in the world they wish to go,” he said.

“Having Qatar Airways back with us is very promising, which means we will be having an influx of tourists in Cebu. The tourism industry in Cebu looks bright this 2018,” said Carlo Suarez, president of Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC).

Suarez added that the new opening of the airport would give the province huge opportunities for more international direct flights.

“This is great news. It means that today, the volume of passengers, OFWs, tourists (business and leisure) are growing. That is worth considering for operations,” said Stanley Go, president of Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Eyes are on the Philippines. It is up to us now to take hold of this momentum and opportunity,” he added.

He advised businesses and government to improve the way they do things to grab hold of the positive momentum coming or else it will become another wasted opportunity.

“We welcome direct long-haul flights to Cebu. For us, this means we will be better accessed by international visitors from the Middle East - one of the markets we have been wanting to grow,” said Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 Director Shalimar Tamano.

“This is an opportune time too, as we are gearing up to be one of the world’s preferred destinations for Halal Tourism Market. We hope that this pushes through, considering that Cebu and Central Visayas now have better connections to neighboring cities and countries than in the previous years,” Tamano added.

Qatar Airways entered Cebu in 2003. It allowed greater accessibility for European tourists, as well as for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

However, 10 years after, the airline halted its Cebu service in Mar. 26, 2012.

The airline’s Cebu-Doha route, according to an airline consultancy firm, Capa-Center for Aviation report, was unprofitable with the A330-200 because of the relatively low yields in the Cebu market.

Rising fuel costs and high operating expenditure were also the reasons the airline suspended its operations, according to a previous report.

But in 2016, Qatar Airways had expressed its interest to come back to Cebu.

The Capa report said the airline may resume its Cebu-Doha operations, following other foreign airlines’ move of expanding its Philippine operations.

Qatar Airways’ planned re-entry would be timely with the opening of the Terminal 2 of Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) in the first half of this year.
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