Joy Cañeba, CEO, Philippines AirAsia: Interview

 Joy Cañeba, CEO, Philippines AirAsia

Interview: Joy Cañeba

What infrastructure developments would accelerate tourism growth in the Philippines?

JOY CAÑEBA: As an archipelago nation, air travel is the fastest and most efficient transport system to connect people in the Philippines. To spur the growth of tourism, the government will need to rely on air transport services and provide the necessary infrastructure support for air carriers to expand their network, open more routes and better serve the public. The ongoing challenge for the Philippines lies in the capacity issues at its main international gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which has led to many studies suggesting that either systems must improve or a transfer plan be developed. The original intention to have a dual airport system between NAIA and Clark International Airport has never fully materialised given a lack of policy and infrastructure development connecting both airports, with Clark experiencing difficulties tapping its catchment area. Most travellers still prefer Manila Airport. Limited terminal capacity also leads airlines to operate in different terminals, which adds to their costs and is reflected in higher ticket prices.

An additional issue for tourism growth in the Philippines is the level of airport infrastructure outside of Manila, especially as air carriers develop domestic airports as their alternative hubs. Although there is interest in increasing direct international flights into high-potential tourism destinations like Bohol, the airport in Tagbilaran has sunset restrictions because of a lack of equipment allowing night flying, and the runway is too short for an Airbus A320. This situation is mirrored in many other regional airports. There need to be infrastructure systems in place to allow air transport to bring passengers safely and efficiently to their destination directly from outside the Philippines, particularly as foreign tourists would not to want to jump from one point to another. On the other hand, airports like Caticlan serving tourism hubs such as Boracay are undergoing runway extensions, the construction of new passenger terminals and improvements to allow night landing, which will add value to the tourism destination. Beach destinations like Boracay are also engaged in efforts to ensure environmental sustainability as tourism grows. Palawan has been a perfect example on this front, as they have put caps on the volume of tourists per day and preserve the ecotourism potential of the province.

How can the aviation industry utilise ASEAN integration to strengthen regional connectivity?

CAÑEBA: The Philippine government has ratified protocols five and six of the Multilateral Agreement on Air Services, which formalises our country’s commitment to the realisation of the Single Aviation Market and the creation of a unified Asean Economic Community through an efficient and fully-integrated transport network. The year 2016 should be an exciting time for travel and tourism in the Philippines. ASEAN Open Skies, if implemented as envisioned, will mean more destinations and frequencies, which will mean more jobs and cash for communities, and Asean connectivity, which is integral to regional success.

To fully reap these benefits, however, we have to forge closer partnerships with government institutions, including all the stakeholders. Decision makers and government leaders must acknowledge the economic benefits and employment opportunities in tourism, especially as the government and the Department of Tourism have a target to see the share of tourism revenue to GDP increase from 6 % to 11%. Our country has lagged so far behind our ASEAN neighbours in visitor arrivals and this is so unfortunate when we have so much to offer. We are a country of resilient people, amazing natural wonders and bountiful resources. To usher in growth and investment, particularly in hospitality and leisure-related infrastructure, we need to form strong partnerships.

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The Report: The Philippines 2016

Tourism chapter from The Report: The Philippines 2016

Cover of The Report: The Philippines 2016

The Report

This article is from the Tourism chapter of The Report: The Philippines 2016. Explore other chapters from this report.

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