Medical tourism, education seen key to Davao-Manado route reopening

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THE DAVAO International Airport. — BW FILE PHOTO

DAVAO CITY — Medical tourism and nursing education in Davao City could spur the reopening of direct flights to and from Manado, the capital of Indonesian province North Sulawesi, officials said.

Indonesian Attaché Ely Syafitri Handayani, in a media forum, said Philippine Airlines (PAL) has already conducted a feasibility study on the route and is considering flights through its subsidiary PAL Express.

Endah R. Yuliarti Farry, consul for information and socio cultural affairs of the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Davao City, said one of the potential markets for the flights are Indonesian students who want to study nursing in the city.

“… (The) Philippines has a high quality in terms of education, in terms of nursing program. Or maybe they (Indonesian students) want to conduct international community service or on-the-job training in Davao City,” Ms. Farry said.

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) President Arturo M. Milan, in a separate interview, said the reopening of the Davao-Manado flights could also bring in Indonesian medical tourists.

“We need to be very strategic, for example Manado or North Sulawesi is nearer to Davao in terms of medical tourism rather than… Jakarta. That is the one that we should do on the medical tourism because we have more facilities in Davao than in Manado,” Mr. Milan said.

For passengers from the Davao side, Mr. Milan said tourism to Manado and onwards to other destinations such as Bali and Palau could be developed.

“I hope they (PAL) will also consider not only Manado but other destinations which are more attractive, because this is a missionary route, meaning it has to be developed. It will take some time. For me, they have to connect to Bali because it is a tourist destination in Indonesia… Tourists who want to go to Palau, they can pass via Manado-Davao route,” he said.

“On the business side, it is a long shot for me because we have common products. If ever there is one potential, it is tourism. It’s not really on trading but purely tourism,” he added.

The Davao-Manado route was previously served by several Indonesian airlines, including Wings Air, and two defunct operators, Bouraq Indonesia Airlines and Merpati Airlines. — Maya M. Padillo