It’s all over the news since evening yesterday – the European Union’s lifting a ban on direct flights from/to the Philippines to/from its member countries. While the decision is limited to legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), it is quite symbolic of gates (and not just windows) of opportunity opening up for the country particularly in terms of tourism and other businesses. It is no secret that the Philippines has been pushing for more tourism from abroad, knowing that there is vast market out there who would be willing to spend money on vacations to attractions in many parts of the country.
These attractions include currently popular destinations like Boracay, Palawan (including Coron), Mindoro, Batangas, Cebu (Mactan, Bantayan, Moalboal, Camotes), Bohol (Panglao), Surigao (Siargao) and Davao (also Samal). There are also many emerging destinations for international tourists like those in Ilocos (Pagudpud, Saud, etc.), Cagayan (Sta. Ana, Palaui Island, etc.), Aurora, Bicol (Caramoan, Misibis, Bagasbas, Calaguas, etc.), Guimaras, Siquijor, Negros, Mindanao and so many other attractions in the other provinces. Obviously, that was not an exhaustive list and one would eventually get tired Googling so many places to see around the country. I purposely mentioned “international” here as I would like to believe that local tourists (i.e., Filipinos) have already discovered many of these emerging destinations that are only being developed now judging by the photos being posted on social media, the amount of info now available about so many destinations when you use the search engines, and the continuing aggressiveness of local airlines in offering promotional fares while also maintaining high frequencies to many cities.
Increased tourism arrivals would definitely have wider impact on a lot of businesses and not just those directly dealing with the visitors (i.e., hotels, airlines, etc.). The required logistics will tell us, for example, that agriculture and fisheries sectors will also benefit as they will supply the food required by tourists. Retail will also benefit as it is inevitable for people to make purchases like souvenirs and other items (need or want) during their stays. I had written before about the benefits of a healthy competition among local airlines in the Philippines and the winners are practically everyone and not just the tourists. It should be noted here that the number of Filipino Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) and their families along would make direct flights worthwhile for PAL.
Offhand though, this development regarding direct flights to Europe for PAL should increase the already tremendous pressure on government to provide the transport infrastructure to handle tourist arrivals. These would be airports, ports and roads that are necessary for smooth travel across the country and not just for our international gateways in Manila, Cebu, Clark and Davao. These gateways, after all, provide a first impression of the country, and I would like to see NAIA Terminal 1, for example, finally getting the upgrade that should have been done so many years ago. Perhaps, the demand translating to more passengers to be handled by our gateways will increase further should approval be granted for Philippine carriers to serve more US destinations. That is not far-fetched given the proverbial green light from the EU for PAL.