By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent
DAVAO CITY — The Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII) is confident that the addition of two more international routes to and from the city this year will boost tourism in the region and other parts of Mindanao.
Cathay Dragon, the operating brand of Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd. and the regional airline of the Cathay Pacific Group, is set to start its four times a week Davao-Hong Kong flights on Oct. 28.
“Within the year, the triangular flight of Qatar Airways of Qatar-Cebu-Davao will also hopefully start within the year,” DCCCII President Arturo M. Milan said in an interview with BusinessWorld on Sept. 4.
Mr. Milan said Qatar Airways is already in the process of looking for ground personnel for the flights.
The airline committed to mounting flights to Davao after it signed a new service agreement with the country in May.
“This will provide connectivity from Davao to the major markets in the world which is just what we need to strengthen our bid to become a major hub,” Mr. Milan said.
In a related development, one of the main discussion points during the 27th Mindanao Business Conference on Sept. 13-15 is the push for the creation of agencies, independent from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), to develop and manage key facilities in Mindanao.
These include the airports in the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos City, and Zamboanga.
“I’m sounding like a broken record already (but) this is part of our Mindanao growth agenda,” Mr. Milan said, adding that this is particularly crucial for the tourism industry.
Mr. Milan cited that having additional direct international flights to and from Davao City will not only benefit the city’s tourism program but other areas as well.
“Tourists do not want to stay in just one area,” he added, “so they will definitely eye travel to Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and even Siargao.”
Mr. Milan said an increase in international flights will also put pressure on the need to upgrade the airport.
The Davao International Airport development project, which was already in the pipeline under the previous administration, has yet to be bid out.
Mr. Milan also said they are still hoping that direct flights between Davao and Japan will also push through soon.
“We are not sure which airline will accept the request as we are still campaigning, but we feel there is a market for the Davao-Japan flights,” he said, citing overseas Filipino workers, tourists, and Japanese who have ties to Davao.
Several projects are also being undertaken by the Japanese government in the city.
Tour operators like Alexander D. Divinagracia of Global Wings Travel and Tours said they are looking forward to direct flights to Japan, especially during the Obon Festival. Typically held during August, it is celebrated as a family reunion holiday as the Japanese honor their ancestors. At present, the only international flights in Davao are to and from Singapore, serviced by Singapore Airlines’ SilkAir and Cebu Pacific.
“But the Davao-Singapore route took sometime to develop since it started 11 years ago,” he said.
The Davao-Kuala Lumpur flights launched by Air Asia in Dec. 2017 has been temporarily suspended as of August due to lack of passenger traffic.
“There is no shortcut. There is a need to develop the routes to sustain the direct flights, but we have to start somewhere,” Mr. Milan said. — with a report from Carmelito Q. Francisco