CEBU AIR, Inc., the listed operator of Cebu Pacific, is looking to fortify its business in China as it looks to dedicate more flights there when it receives its order of new aircraft next year.
Cebu Pacific President Lance Y. Gokongwei told reporters on Tuesday the 10 planes it expects to be delivered by 2019 will be used primarily for international flights, specifically in China.
“There’s really a lot of interest from North Asia, especially Chinese, to connect to the Philippines. So I think there’s gonna be large opportunities to connect the secondary cities in China outside the Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai,” he said.
The company is seeking connectivity to cities such as Chengdu and Xi An, but Mr. Gokongwei refused to disclose the number of locations they are targeting.
The local carrier said last week it is looking to add nine additional aircraft every year starting this year until 2022. It has so far ordered five Airbus A320neos, two A321ceos, 31 A321neos and six ATR 72-600s.
When the new routes to China launch, Mr. Gokongwei said the flights might have to be distributed to airports outside Metro Manila as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) currently suffers from overcapacity.
“I think Manila’s getting a little bit congested, so we are going to be adding significant capacity to Clark, to Cebu, and to other destinations,” he noted.
Aside from Cebu Pacific, Philippines Airlines (PAL) also said earlier it is boosting its business in China as it expects the market to be its fastest growing this year.
Yung growth ng market ng tourist from China is the highest in terms of percentage growth. There was a time ata 50% eh, (The growth of the Chinese tourist market is the highest in terms of percentage growth. There was a time I think it reached 50%),” PAL President Jaime J. Bautista told reporters on July 17.
He noted that Chinese tourists are drawn to the Philippine islands and beaches, and this is fuelling the continuous rise of the market.
Meanwhile, aside from its plans for China, Cebu Pacific is also positive it will reach its target to fly 22 million passengers this year despite the six-month closure of Boracay as Mr. Gokongwei said the company saw “tremendous growth” in tourism, reaching double digits.
“(There is) increasing interest from foreign tourists to visit the sights of the Philippines. I think the combination of increased capacity provided by the airlines, continuous low fares, as well as the increased interest arising from the growing economy and the marketing efforts of the various players, especially the government, will really propel growth,” he said.
The Boracay Island has been shut down by the government after a comment from President Rodrigo R. Duterte saying it has turned into a cesspool. Rehabilitation efforts for the tourist spot began in April and is set to end by Oct. 26.
Department of Tourism (DoT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told reporters despite the island’s closure, tourist arrivals in June increased by 11.35% from the same period last year. “Imagine, the closure of our number one tourist destination did not affect tourist arrivals. In fact, it increased. Imagine with the opening,” she said.
The government is targeting a total of 7.4 million tourist arrivals by year-end.
Cebu Pacific also announced it is partnering with the DoT for its sustainable tourism initiative that will begin in September. The project, dubbed “Juan Effect,” will gather stakeholders to work on a concerted effort to conserve the environment.
“Siargao will serve as the Juan Effect pilot module, wherein the airline together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, local government units and tourism associations, will work together to implement sustainable tourism action plans,” the company said in a statement.
Cebu Air saw its net income at P1.436 billion during the first quarter, up 12% from in the same period last year. It said in a regulatory filing that the increase was driven by higher revenue growth.
Shares in Cebu Air went up by 35 centavos or 0.50% to close at P70.35 each on Tuesday. — Denise A. Valdez