Japanese travelers await more flight seats

WHILE tourism arrivals to Cebu are now getting better, Japanese, one of the top tourist source markets for Cebu after Koreans, are still waiting for more airline seats to open up so they can travel to Cebu.

Cebu Alliance of Tour Operation Specialists Inc. (Catos) president Alice Queblatin said in an interview Friday, May 12, 2023, that foreign arrivals are “getting better because there are already more seats, more flights. Koreans are here and hopefully, (arrivals) from Japan, we are waiting for their big return.”

Queblatin said Japanese are now open to traveling again to Cebu, but there are not enough seats from Japan to Cebu. There are no direct flights to other destinations in Japan from Cebu except to Tokyo (Narita).

“But I heard that in July, there will be more seats,” she said.

Cebu Pacific resumed its Narita-Cebu roundtrip service on May 1. The Cebu-Narita flight, the fourth international destination of Cebu Pacific from Cebu, will operate daily, departing from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 2 a.m. and arriving at 1:20 p.m. in Cebu for its turnaround flight.

Philippine Airlines, on the other hand, also flies Cebu-Tokyo (Narita) four times a week every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Cebu welcomed 30,241 arrivals from Japan last year, up 613.74 percent from 4,237 arrivals in 2021. Japan was Cebu’s fourth tourist source market next to Korea (170,943 arrivals), USA (90,107) and China (50,036).

There were 2.8 million foreign tourists who arrived in Cebu last year from 902,573 in 2021.

Meanwhile, Queblatin said the tourism stakeholders and the Cebu City Tourism Commission are currently working together to create tourism hubs in Cebu. These are the heritage, highland, coastal and urban tourism hubs.

“The market that is accessible right now is the domestic but we are also promoting these tourism hubs overseas,” said Queblatin.

Global tourism

An estimated 235 million tourists traveled internationally in the first three months of the year, according to new data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

This is more than double the same period of 2022 and is already 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels, marking that international tourism is well on its way to returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The Middle East saw the strongest performance as the only region exceeding 2019 arrivals at 15 percent growth and the first to recover pre-pandemic numbers in a full quarter.

Europe, on the other hand, reached 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels driven by strong intra-regional demand, while Africa reached 88 percent and the Americas about 85 percent of the 2019 levels.

Asia and the Pacific accelerated its recovery with 54 percent of pre-pandemic levels, but this upward trend is set to accelerate now that most destinations, particularly China, have re-opened.

“The start of the year has shown again tourism’s unique ability to bounce back. In many places, we are close to or even above pre-pandemic levels of arrivals. However, we must remain alert to challenges ranging from geopolitical insecurity, staffing shortages, and the potential impact of the cost-of-living crisis on tourism, and we must ensure tourism’s return delivers on its responsibilities as a solution to the climate emergency and as a driver of inclusive development,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili in a statement.

High inflation and rising oil prices that translate to higher transport and accommodation costs are some of the factors that weigh down the full recovery of international tourism in 2023.

“As a result, tourists are expected to increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home,” the UNWTO Panel of experts said.

Uncertainty derived from the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other mounting geopolitical tensions, also continue to represent downside risks.