PHILIPPINES AIRASIA, Inc. said Thursday that the return of more destinations to its network has been driven by their opening for leisure travel, signaling the beginnings of a “recovery” for the tourism industry.

“Aside from Caticlan (Boracay), Bohol and Cebu, leisure travelers may now also fly to Puerto Princesa, Iloilo Province, Bacolod, Davao and Tacloban to enjoy their much missed getaways,” Philippines AirAsia said in a statement.

Such destinations now only require vaccination cards in lieu of a coronavirus test or a medical certificate.

“Reopening of leisure travel for most parts of the country signals recovery for the tourism industry,” the low-cost airline said.

It also said that the easing of restrictions provides a “welcome boost to end the year on an encouraging note.”

In its analysis published on Oct. 19, the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation said, citing International Air Transport Association projections for next year, that “‘Within-Asia’ traffic… is forecast to be still nearly 90% below 2019 levels for the full year 2022.”

“Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Asia Pacific region accounted for about a third of global RPKs (revenue passenger kilometers). But in 2022, the region will now remain approximately three-quarters below Europe and North America,” it added.

AirAsia said it logged a 50% increase in seats sold in October.

Load factor for the same month also grew 76%, with Boracay, Cebu, Tacloban, Bohol and Iloilo as the leading destinations.

“The spike in forward bookings is also seen to increase further with the recent decision of the Department of Tourism’s to fully subsidize the RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test for qualified local tourists,” the airline said.

The airline said last month that it was hoping to rehire laid-off workers in the Philippines by the second quarter of 2022.

The airline also plans to reopen some of its regional routes, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia. — Arjay L. Balinbin