Visitor arrivals to the Philippines breaching the five-million mark, officials of the Department of Tourism (DOT) remain upbeat to attract a million additional foreign travellers this year. The secret behind DOT optimist forecasts: the return -or more precisely the extension- of “Visit Philippines Year 2015” into 2016.
Until 2020, the Philippines are looking to welcome 10 million international travellers, meaning that each year until the end of the decade will see the addition of a new million visitors per annum. It is a true challenge but the Department of Tourism believes that the newly ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) would have a positive effect on tourism growth as closer integration will stimulate both business and leisure travel.
However, dragging “Visit PH 2015″into 2016 will certainly not be enough. Planning has been done by the current Filipino Government to further improve the country’s airports and seaports as well as further developing a network of highways. “Greater connectivity and service quality upgrade will be our focus to achieve a target of six million international visitors this year”, highlighted Department of Tourism Undersecretary for Tourism Development Benito Bengzon Jr.
Simple and efficient connections are a core task for the DOT as it will sustain tourism growth. While Manila main airport is still struggling to upgrade its facilities and expand its capacity, the DOT works with the Departments of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation and Communications to upgrade the country’s provincial airports, especially a new facility in Boracay.
The Resort Island is desperate to have a proper air facility. The airport is located in Caticlan and has a runway of only 950 m. Developed by San Miguel Corporation, the newer and larger Caticlan Boracay Airport is expected to be completed by March/April 2016 with an extended runway of 1,800 meters, capable of accommodating the Airbus A320 and a new terminal will be able to accommodate simultaneously five to six aircraft. The new Terminal might however not be ready before the end of 2017. PAL and Cebu Pacific already announced to upgrade their flights to Airbus A320 while AirAsia also announced to fly to Caticlan once the runway completed. Currently, passengers travelling from foreign countries direct to Boracay must fly to Kalibo International Airport.
Other important expansion projects are currently planned for Bacolod-Silay Airport (expansion of the terminal to 3.1 million annual passengers), Iloilo Airport (expansion of terminal to 4.5 million passengers and new taxiway) and to Davao International Airport (terminal is due to be increased to 6.7 million passengers).
A brand new airport is currently under construction in Bohol to replace the ageing Tagbilaran City air terminal. The future eco-friendly airport is constructed by Japan Mitsubishi-Chiyoda Joint Venture and should to be completed in 2017. It will be able to accommodate up to 1.7 million passengers annually.
Bengzon highlighted to local media that after successfully building global awareness of the country with its world acclaimed campaign “It is More Fun in the Philippines”, the agency is now working to create now awareness and demand for selected destinations. Selected destinations for promotion are Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, Palawan, Davao, Iloilo, and Siargao Island, a popular surfing destination.
“It is part of the strategy of the DOT to position ourselves as a multiple-gateway destination. We have that unique advantage over the others because many countries in Southeast Asia, at best, only have three or four destinations. This is why connectivity and accessibility are very important ” explained the Undersecretary.