Philippine banks on charter flights to lift inbound Chinese incentive numbers


THE Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT) is hoping to grow Chinese incentive arrivals by encouraging the creation of more charter flights from China.

Hundreds of Chinese incentive groups visited the Philippines last year, thanks to the availability of direct charter flights in the form of regular services that are operated for a year as well as short-term and ad hoc ones during China’s Golden Week holidays.

The uptrend is expected to continue this year, on the back of further plans for charter flights which include AirAsia Zest’s services to Kalibo from Tianjin, Chongqing and Chengdu, and to Puerto Princesa and Palawan from Shanghai, as well as AirPhil Express’ services to Kalibo from Hefei and Fuzhou, and to Cebu from Nanning.

Niel P Ballesteros, the officer-in-charge of the DoT in Shanghai and Beijing, said the tourism bureau is rooting for more charter flights from China because they “open up air access to and from destinations (lacking) regular flight services”. Philippine destinations that benefit from such arrangements are usually outside of Manila, the main gateway to the country, and which are not covered by bilateral air entitlements.

Currently, seven airlines serve routes between Manila and China. They are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, China Eastern, China Southern, Xiamen Air and Air China. With the availability of charter flights, more Chinese cities beyond Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong are linked to Boracay and Cebu which are favoured by leisure and incentive travellers.

Illustrating the benefits of charter flights, Ballesteros said services to Kalibo in Boracay from 11 Chinese cities are generating 136 flights and 24,480 passengers every month, while those to Cebu from five Chinese cities are generating 34 flights and 10,976 passengers monthly.

In addition, eight chartered flights to Laoag in Ilocos Norte carry 1,280 pax monthly into the coastal destination.

Ballesteros said charter flights are “the most cost-efficient tool to generate arrivals”, and it “has an immediate big impact with measurable results”.

This is because charter flights usually have 98 per cent Chinese pax and 95 per cent load factor, he added.

He also noted that charters offer “ease of travel, convenience, more affordable tickets and tour programmes”.

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