It’s official. Travellers from all over the world have come to recognize the Philippines as a top destination in Asia.
In the first half of the year alone, the Department of Tourism (DOT) recorded a four-percent rise in foreign tourist arrivals at 2.4 million, as compared to the same period in 2013.
Beyond this development, DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez further reported that the country’s 7,107 islands have also tickled the fancy of local travelers who have gone from north to south, rather than abroad, in the last several years.
This “tourism boom” is evident from statistics released by the DOT, which show that the agency’s 35.5 million domestic tourist target in 2016 had been achieved as early as 2012.
As of late 2013, 44 million local tourists activities were recorded through the huge demand for airline services in the market, which in turn, spurred the rise of new airline companies and services in the country.
As the Center for Aviation (CAPA) sees a robust Philippine commercial aviation industry rapidly developing today, The Sunday Times Magazine looks into the impressive business venture that is Magnum Air (Skyjet) Incorporated and the man behind what is touted as “the first boutique and leisure airline company in the country offering premium quality in-flight service.”
Ever careful and innovative as an entrepreneur, Skyjet president Dino Carlo Reyes Chua is responsible for launching the first and only jet service dedicated to four unique island destinations in the Philippines. These are Coron, Palawan; Basco, Batanes; Baler, Aurora; and Caticlan, Boracay.
As a staunch advocate of Philippine tourism, Chua believes that his valuable investment in aviation can help the country become one of the best tourist destinations in the world. For the 34-year-old businessman, the airline is natural progression in toward his goal, as he also sits as president and chief operating officer of Greenbelt Hotels International, which operates One Greenbelt Hotel in Makati City and Coastal Bay in Cavite.
Chua’s beginnings as a successful entrepreneur can be traced back to his family’s multiple businesses in Cavite and their responsible employment practices that prioritize livelihood for the community. His parents Danilo Chua and Corazon Reyes are credited as pioneers of the province’s petroleum, real estate, manufacturing, broadcasting, construction, schools and food industries.
Beloved for providing work to countless Cavitenos, Chua, as the eldest son, eventually found himself in public service as the youngest vice mayor of Cavite City and the rest of the country at 23-years-old (2004 to 2010).
Ever active in community development, he currently sits as provincial board member, representing the First Congressional District of Cavite for the towns of Kawit, Rosario, Noveleta, Cavite City.
Besides his instrinsic knack for business, Chua made sure to arm himself nonetheless with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from De La Salle University’s College of Saint Benilde. He pursued further studies in Executive Education at Stanford University, in California, before taking up units at the San Beda College of Law.
His achievements both in business and public service were duly recognized when he named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines in 2003.
At only 34-years-old, Dino Chua’s success story is indeed an interesting one to tell.
Coupled with his firm vow to do the best he can in helping make the Philippines one of the best tourist destinations in the world, the young achiever does not disappoint in unravelling his plans and more to The Sunday Times Magazine.
STM: How would you assess the aviation industry in the Philippines today?
Dino Carlo Chua (DCC): The aviation industry in the country is one of the booming businesses these days because of the continuous positive developments in the tourism industry. The Philippines is one of the favorite destinations of local and foreign travellers based on our experience with Skyjet Air.
STM: How big a role does the aviation industry play in boosting the country’s tourism?
DCC: There’s a strong link between the aviation industry and tourism because we need air transportation to bring foreign and local visitors around the Philippines’ 7,107 islands. As of the present, there are very few airlines offering leisure trips to these beautiful destinations.
STM: What are the challenges facing the aviation industry today?
DCC: The aviation industry is a highly-regulated business and to fulfill all the requirements to own permits to fly is sometimes a tedious task. Another challenge is the availability of new airports to these destinations. Our airports are really congested and it takes time to get slots in these airports.
STM: What are your current observations on local tourism?
DCC: It’s very encouraging that many Filipinos these days choose to visit local destinations rather than visit other countries. Maybe because they can see that continuous developments and investments in these island destinations are taking place, and many of our airline and hotel services are now at par with international standards.
STM: What are the new trends in local travel?
DCC: Many Filipinos now are looking for comfort in traveling. The price is sometimes not an issue anymore as long as they get value for money and quality service for their family. That’s why we position Skyjet as the first class boutique leisure airline in the country.
STM: What makes Skyjet different from other airlines?
DCC: We want to serve the unserved or those travelers who want extra comfort in traveling to unique and exotic island destinations in the Philippines. We offer many perks like free food, free over-flowing champagne, free chocolates, free insurance and world-class service while onboard our special aircraft.
STM: Why are Skyjet aircrafts “special”?
DCC: We have three aircrafts. Two of our jet aircrafts are the same aircraft used by the British Royal Family making them the safest jets in the world. The British Aerospace or BAE-146 series 200 (80-seater) aircraft is also known as the “Whisperjet” because of its quiet four engines that have excellent safety features specializing in short runways (STOL or short take off and landing). This is perfect for the short runways in most of our island destinations in the country, which not serviceable by bigger airplanes.
STM: What can you say about Philippine pilots like the first Filipino pilot who flew the biggest commercial aircraft (Airbus 380) from Dubai to Manila?
DCC: Our Filipino pilots are everywhere because they are excellent pilots. Many of our pilots are trained abroad and are executives in many known airlines in the world. We should be proud of Captain Frank Desiderio.
STM: Please talk about the Skyjet pilots and crew.
DCC: Ed Tamayo is our chief pilot who was trained abroad. We have three sets of crews composed of one captain, one assistant pilot and two stewardess per flight.
STM: When did you assume leadership in Skyjet, and why did you decide to venture in the aviation industry to begin with?
DCC: I became the president of the company in January of this year. Dr. Joel Mendoza, the founder and now chief executive officer and chairman, announced my post last December 2013 during a corporate meeting. It was an accidental business venture. After the Yolanda tragedy, I initiated a relief goods effort with some of my NGO (non-government organization) partners as a board member of Cavite. We were delivering to Coron, Palawan, one of the most devastated places during that time. I called up Dr. Mendoza to help us bring the goods and from there we were able to discuss the possibility of expanding Skyjet from a charter service airline to a commercial airline—and the rest is history. I joined Skyjet with some of my business partners and investors.
STM: What new business approaches have you brought to Skyjet?
DCC: Besides positioning it as a boutique airline, we are also leveling up its services. Cost of local island packages are now almost the same when you travel to other countries like Singapore or Hong Kong, but the island experience is definitely different. This is why Skyjet launched last month the direct flight and packages to Boracay direct from countries like Taipei. Travelers need not go to Manila or Cebu anymore to go to Boracay.
STM: Why did you decide to invest in the tourism industry?
DCC: It started with a dream. My father used to be an LPG distributor to many hotels in Manila so when I reached high school, he trained me to collect payments from these hotels with our staff during summer. Whenever I entered those hotels, I dreamt of having my own hotel someday.
My first venture was a resort in Coastal Bay, in Noveleta, Cavite called El Palacio Hotel and Resort in 2006 and I was 26 years old then. It was originally a rest house for the family until we opened it up to the public.
In 2012, with the experience of putting up a resort, I ventured into developing a boutique hotel called One Greenbelt Hotel in Makati. This is an alternative hotel for businessmen who want a value for money hotel with a five-star hotel services.
STM: Are you involved in any other businesses besides these?
DCC: I would say my other business venture is still complementary to the tourism industry because it entails shopping. We are currently building community mall in Bacoor City, Cavite called the Bacoor Town Center. I’m involved with the Regada Center Mall in Cavite City.
STM: What was your first big business venture?
DCC: Since I was a rock band member when I was in college, I founded Cavite’s first FM radio when I was 21 years old. I also co-found another FM radio station in Metro Manila (Blazin’ 105.9 FM), which later became U-Radio in partnership with Ramon “RJ” Jacinto. It was renamed Radio High 105.9 and is now known as Retro 105.9 DCG FM.
STM: How do you decide which business to get into? Do you have mentor who guides you?
DCC: I always consult my father who is my mentor and my idol. He’s also my biggest supporter in my political career. He started as a ordinary LPG dealer then he turned the small business into a refilling plant called Liqui-Gas. He also started the first hardware store in Cavite and many other businesses there. He has many scholars and he loves helping people. I grew up seeing that, which is why I decided to enter politics.
STM: When did you go into politics?
DCC: After my graduation in college, I became the youngest vice mayor of Cavite City at the age of 23, and effectively the youngest vice mayor in the country. I first entered politics when I was elected as the topnotch city councilor of Cavite City in 2004 elections.
STM: Are there other members of your family who are into politics?
DCC: My two brothers are also into politics. My younger brother Davey is also topnotch councilor in Noveleta, Cavite. My father in-law, Bernardo Paredes is now the mayor of Cavite City and I’m married to Apple Paredes who is also a councilor.
My great grandfather Congressman Augusto Reyes Sr., was originally lawyer who later became a court justice during the American regime. He was elected representative of Cavite province in the 1925 Congress.
STM: Are you planning to further pursue your political career?
DCC: I’m planning to run for mayor in the near future that’s why I’m thinking of pursuing another big dream to be a lawyer.
STM: What is your typical day like?
DCC: Normally, I conduct meetings in the morning and spend time in the office. After lunch, I check my other businesses and then go to Cavite after to attend to my obligations as board member. Sundays are family days. I usually spend it with my wife and my seven-year old son Dior, which is short for “Dino Junior.”
STM: Are you personally a traveler?
DCC: Yes, I like to travel with my family whenever time permits and I love visiting local destinations and Asian countries too.
STM: How do you manage your time as a businessman, public servant, and family man all together?
DCC: It’s just time management. I love what I’m doing so I find time to fulfill all my obligations because I believe if you’re passionate about something, everything is possible.
STM: What is your advice to other young individuals who aspire to succeed in their own careers and industries?
DCC: I really don’t consider myself a success, but my advise to the youth is to dream. But they should wake up from just dreaming and take the initiative to turn their dreams to reality.