New Singapore service to boost Mindanao tourism

Posted on December 04, 2015

DAVAO CITY -- More international tourists are expected to consider the Davao Region as a holiday destination with the relaunch of budget carrier Cebu Pacific’s flights between Davao City and Singapore beginning Dec. 17.

Foreign tourists make up a small percentage of total visitor arrivals in the region, accounting for only about 6% of the 2.29 million recorded in 2014, based on data from the Department of Tourism (DoT).

DoT Regional director Roberto P. Alabado III said the agency is optimistic that the number will increase with the Cebu Air, Inc. unit’s twice-a-week service from the Singapore Changi Airport, which is a major international hub.

The Singapore-Davao route, for which Cebu Pacific launched a service in 2008 but discontinued, is currently covered solely by SilkAir (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, with nine flights a week.

Mr. Alabado said a delegation composed of representatives from the DoT, Davao City Tourism Office, Cebu Air and other private sector tourism stakeholders went to Singapore last week to “update” the Singapore market on Davao Region’s offerings.

“(We) did a product update and introduced to the Singapore business and tourism industry the new (Cebu Pacific) Davao-Singapore (flights) and oriented the Singaporeans what to expect here in Davao City,” Mr. Alabado said.

He said they emphasized the region’s eco-adventure and eco-tourism attractions, including mountain destinations and scuba diving, as well as food and cultural sites.

Mr. Alabado said the agency also received inquiries from private tour operators about halal offerings, which could bring in more Muslim visitors from various parts of Asia.

The DoT official admitted that strictly halal establishments have yet to be identified as they are still waiting for the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) from the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos (NMCF) on proper procedures for halal certification.

However, he stressed: “There are some establishments here that practice halal since 10% of our population here is Muslim,” Mr. Alabado said.

Overall, Mr. Alabado said the agency is optimistic that the additional air services will boost tourism in the region.

“We have created an impact and I hope business-to-business transaction would result to an increase in visitors coming from Singapore,” he said.

At the same time, Mr. Alabado said it is banking on the continued promotion of Davao City as a MICE (meeting, incentive, conference, exhibition) venue to keep visitors coming despite the setback from the still unresolved kidnapping incident in neighboring Samal Island in late September.

“We have to take extra care now on what’s happening. We have talked to the (tourism) properties and resorts, and they said that they were affected by the incident,” he said, noting that local government units and police and military authorities have strengthened security measures in the region.

The DoT, he said, is giving an “extra push” in marketing Davao City and Samal Island, which offers beach destinations that the city does not have, as a combined destination.

“The tourists take faith in our efforts and they continue to come here, and what happened in Samal was just a temporary setback,” he said. -- Maya M. Padillo