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Direct flights to regional airports driving tourist arrival targets

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THE Department of Tourism (DoT) said its target of 9.2 million international visitors this year is driven by more airport development projects which allow tourists to bypass Manila’s congested airport.

“According to the National Tourism Development Plan, it’s at 9.2 million for this year,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told reporters on Wednesday on the sidelines of the conference on the Institutionalized Leveraging of Infrastructure Program for Airport Development (iLIPAD) held in New Clark City.

The 2019 tourist arrival target was set at 8.2 million.

“We are happy that there are more airports opening: Clark, according to (Transportation) Secretary (Arthur P.) Tugade, will be at the latest July, Legazpi, of course that will help. And of course, when we have the approval of the consortium for the expansion of NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airports).”

She was referring to the new passenger terminal at Clark as well as the Bicol International airport in Daraga, Albay, in the Legazpi City area.

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“We want the tourists not to go via NAIA but to go straight, so we have Mactan, Bohol and of course Clark and Bicol (airports),” she added.

Asked about her department’s target tourism revenue for 2020, Ms. Puyat said: “I’m not quite sure but then for January to September last year, we had an increase of 25% from the previous year.”

Ms. Puyat and Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade also signed a memorandum of agreement on behalf of the DoT and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to “intensify infrastructure development that will support the development and promotion of tourism circuits across the country.”

Under the agreement, both departments will prioritize airport development programs in support of tourism development areas, monitor the progress of airport projects in such areas, and explore, develop and increase the value proposition of destinations “for sustainable tourism through the productive utilization of airport assets and route development.”

In her opening remarks during the conference, Ms. Puyat said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which is the infrastructure arm of the DoT, is now working with the DoTr “on the possibility of funding several airports to equip them (for night operations).”

“Funding amounting to P1 billion is set for approval by the TIEZA Board in its next board meeting. We must make sure that it’s not only more fun in the Philippines, but much safer too,” she added.

Mr. Tugade said: “I would like to thank the Department of Tourism. This gesture is very encouraging, because believe it or not, the capacity of all commercially-operating airports in the Philippines has and have to be night-rated in order that they make sense and the efficiency desired can be achieved.” — Arjay L. Balinbin

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