THE government is determined to improve and upgrade air access into the country to boost international tourism and spur business activity, a top tourism official said.
“Our country, being an archipelago of over 7,100 islands which obviously do not enjoy cross-border passage like our neighbors, it’s inevitable to recognize the urgent need for improved international air access to facilitate tourists’ entry into the country,” Department of Tourism (DoT) Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said in a forum on February 15.
Bengzon touted the vital of role of air travel services in the tourism industry that generated over P230 billion in revenues last year.
The Philippines, it was noted at the forum, has been lagging behind its neighbors in tourism performance, with visitor arrivals in 2016 reaching only 5.97 million.
On the other hand, Thailand last year received 32.59 million visitors; followed by Malaysia, 26.52 million; Singapore, 16.4 million; Indonesia, 11.28 million; and Vietnam, 10 million.
“In the absence of border-crossing travels as in those in Indo-China, we need more direct flights to visitor destinations all over the country,” Bengzon said.
The recent opening of new air routes to secondary gateways and increased frequencies of flights by foreign and local carriers have resulted in continued growth of tourist influx from Korea, the U.S., China and Japan, among others.
Bengzon said the DoT is working closely with other agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to improve airport facilities such as those in the cities of Cebu, Kalibo, Clark, Iloilo, Davao and Puerto Princesa.
He also cited increased high-level talks with partner countries on improving air access, including China, from which the DoT looks to increase visitor arrivals from 35 percent to 50 percent.
The DoT target is to hit 12 million international visitor arrivals in 2022 under the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) for 2016-2022.
Various stakeholders attended Wednesday’s forum, including airport officials, travel and tour executives, airline officials and DoT officials.