Direct flights to Davao will help boost tourist arrivals to 1.32 million

Subscribe Now August 22, 2013 at 08:38am

With the increased flights of budget carriers and new developments in the local hotel industry, Davao City is on track to reach its 1.32 million arrivals target for 2013.

This developed as the city successfully mounted its Kadayawan Festival from August 9-18 amid security threats, which almost forced Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to cancel the event.

The festival, an annual celebration of bountiful harvests and cultural heritage of Davao’s 10 tribes, was estimated to have attracted an additional 30,000 visitors to the city, said Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 11 director Arturo P. Boncato Jr.

Davao City is among the top 10 destinations in the Philippines, with visitor arrivals growing at a fast clip due to its positioning as a center for meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) in the country.

Last year, it recorded 1.6 million visitors, up by 71 percent from the 700,000 visitors who arrived in 2008 – a mere five-year span.

Of the arrivals, some 95 percent were domestic tourists, while the rest were foreign passport holders from the United States (Filipino balikbayans), South Korea, Japan, and China.

“We attribute [the increase in arrivals] to budget airlines and to new players in the hotel industry. We now have a convention facility (SMX Davao Convention Center). We have 7,000 rooms now and more hotels are being built,” said Boncato in an interview with select Manila-based reporters.

The 7,000 rooms include the newly-opened Radisson Park Inn (200 rooms) of the SM Group and Ayala Land’s Seda (186 rooms). By November, Tune Hotels of Air Asia founder Tony Fernandes will open in Davao, adding 150 rooms, and the locally-owned JTC Tower Plaza Hotel will add 311.

But Boncato said the only way to diversify the composition of tourists in Davao is for international carriers to mount direct flights from their countries of origin.

“So we’re working very hard to attract new [direct] connections from Korea, and hopefully from China,” he stressed.

At present, the only international flights that arrive at the night-rated Davao International Airport are from Singapore via SilkAir, “but it is a co-terminalization with Cebu so they fly Singapore-Cebu-Davao or Singapore-Davao-Cebu. And the regular stream of traffic we get, they come here for businesses primarily, and tourism secondarily.”

Data from DOT Region 11 (Davao region) showed that around 567,000 visitors arrived in Davao City in the first half of 2013, up by 10 percent from the 514,427 visitors in the same period last year.

For the entire Davao region, which includes Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, and Compostela Valley, Boncato said visitor arrivals are seen hitting 1.76 million this year, from 1.6 million in 2012.

Aside from being a MICE destination, Davao has been aggressively promoting the region’s ecotourism attractions especially in foreign markets, using its “Islands to Highlands” branding.

Among the attractions being pushed are Samal Island for snorkeling, white beach, and para-gliding; mountain climbing in Mount Apo; the Tibolo Cultural Village which showcases indigenous tribes; diving in the Davao Gulf; as well as spelunking, ziplining, wakeboarding, and skimboarding, in various sites in the region.


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