Shanghai-Cebu flights seen boosting Visayas tourism
CEBU CITY, Philippines–The introduction of regular chartered flights between Cebu and Shanghai will open up the huge Chinese market to the local tourism industry.
Shanghai tourism attaché Gerard Panga called the China Southern Airlines’ inaugural Shanghai-Cebu flight, which landed in Cebu early Saturday morning, a breakthrough for Cebu’s tourism industry.
Shanghai, along with Beijing and Guangzhou, is among the three most economically developed regions in China, and they are considered major sources of outbound tourists.
The over 100 Chinese tourists who arrived on board the China Southern Airlines chartered flight were set to go to Bohol for a brief tour there.
Philippine Consul General to Shanghai Jesus Yabes, who accompanied the Chinese tourists, said the direct flights would make Cebu more attractive to the Shanghai tourists since it would cut down travel time.
While the flight from Shanghai to Cebu and Manila lasted three hours, Yabes said the tourists who would likely come to Cebu had to stay overnight in Manila.
“With the direct flight from Shanghai, the tourists could have more time to spend in Cebu,” he added.
Yabes urged Cebu to enhance its beaches and water sports to make it more attractive to the Chinese market.
He said the World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimated that the Chinese outbound tourists would reach 100 million by the year 2020.
The top destinations of Chinese tourists are Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, the United States, Singapore and Malaysia.
Yabes said the Philippines, lacking in capacity for accommodations and travel, could not yet qualify as one of the top destinations. But just getting 500,000 Chinese tourists would boost the local economy, he added.
Patria Aurora Roa, regional director of the Department of Tourism, said that initially, the regular chartered flights would be twice weekly.
However, Roa said the charter operator envisioned the flight frequency to increase to five times a week before the end of 2007.
“They are that confident,” she added.
David Xu of the Shanghai Yeexing E-Business Co. Ltd, the charter operator, said they planned to increase the regular chartered flights to four times a week after September.
In October 1, Xu said they would use a bigger aircraft to accommodate the projected increase of passengers.
He said they were also planning a chartered flight from Shanghai to Kalibo in Aklan.
Panga said the charter operator was targetting 10,000 Chinese tourists coming to Cebu from July to February 2008.
He said the charter operator has been planning other destinations, such as Puerto Princesa.
The influx of more Chinese tourists would be good for the local economy since they would go to the restaurants, use tourist buses and other support services, Roa said.
The WTO study of the Chinese outbound market found that most of the Chinese travelers were ready to spend large amounts of money on the destinations.
An AC Nielsen survey showed that in 2004, the per capita spending of Chinese outbound tourists reached $987, higher than Japan and Korea, making Chinese tourists the highest tourist spender in the world.
The travels of the Chinese tourists are concentrated during three official Chinese holiday periods — the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) in January or February, the May Holiday and the National Day Holiday.
Roa said the increase of Chinese tourists in Cebu would boost the tourism industry in areas such as Bohol.