Outbound religious travel boosted by Turkish Airlines’ Manila connection

TURKISH Airlines is launching a direct flight linking Istanbul with Manila starting March 30, which will likely boost pilgrimage and leisure travel from the Philippines.

“Turkey is a destination for pilgrims, shopping, seamen and a good place for MICE,” said Erhan Balaban, Philippines general manager for Turkish Airlines, adding that these travellers make up the traditional demographics for inbound tourists to Turkey.

Inbound tour operators in Turkey are already in touch with Philippine operators, and Turkish Airlines will tap its own network of Turkish operators to promote destinations such as Pamukkale, Selçuk (Ephesus), Cappadocia and Canakkale, Balaban added.

The route is also an opportunity to pair Turkey with Athens, Rome and Tel Aviv, particularly for religious travellers, said Ligaya Tabirao, general manager, Meteor Philippines, whose company is an 20-year partner of Turkey’s Orion Tour.

Pilgrimage tours are on the upswing from last year, with Egypt, Israel and Jordan “back on track”, said Tabirao.

Although tour operators have expressed scepticism if the thrice-weekly frequency could meet outbound demand from the Philippines, Dorothy Alzona, president and general manager, Skynet Travel, said a typical itinerary to Turkey is seven to nine days long. “People will also go to Greece – so three times a week is okay.”

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