DUBAI-BASED Emirates Airlines touched down at Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) on Wednesday, signaling its first daily circular service in two cities in the Philippines—Cebu and Clark.
A VIP delegation composed of Emirates executives and a contingent of international media were aboard the inaugural flight via Boeing 777-300ER. It touched down at the MCIA at 3:50 p.m. and was greeted with a traditional water canon salute.
Emirates flights to Cebu and Clark will depart daily from Dubai as EK338 at 02:55 a.m., arriving at the MCIA at 3:50 p.m. It will then depart MCIA at 5:20 p.m. and arrive at Clark International Airport at 6:50 p.m. The return flight departs Clark at 8:20 p.m. and will arrive at the Dubai International Airport the next day at 1:20 a.m.
Emirates’ entry to Cebu and Clark, Emirates senior vice-president for commercial operations-Far East Badr Abbas says, will allow the airline company to contribute to the development of tourism and trade in the Philippines’ regional economies.
Popular Philippine exports from Cebu such as electronics, furniture, integrated circuits, automotive parts, watches and dried mangoes, among others, will now have seamless connection overseas.
Exports of live fish and other perishables can now also be accommodated, as the early morning connection in Dubai makes seamless connections to most of Europe and other countries.
Abbas also noted that the airline’s network of over 150 destinations will help enhance connectivity for both Clark and Cebu, providing more choices for travelers, especially for the over 600,000 overseas Filipino workers concentrated in the Middle East, more markets for regional products and more opportunities for inbound tourism.
Emirates’ daily circular service will connect Filipinos to 39 cities in Europe, 16 in the Middle East as well as a number of destinations across their extensive network in Africa and South America.
Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said Emirates’ entry to Cebu and Clark is one of the benefits reaped by the country in its move to massively improve the airports in the country.
Four foreign flights have since been added to MCIA’s route network since the airport’s rehabilitation under the management of GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp., (GMCAC).
Emirates is banking on the huge OFW market, tourism, and export opportunities in the Visayas and Mindanao to grow and sustain its business in Cebu.
“Filipinos living in Visayas and Mindanao who go to the Middle East and Europe will benefit from this new route. Now, they can fly directly from Cebu and save the hard-earned money they would usually spend on board, lodging and transportation if departing from Manila,” said GMCAC president Louie Ferrer, in a statement.
Moreover, Abbas said Cebu and Clark’s daily flights to Dubai, along with the 18 weekly flight frequencies in Manila, are seen to boost the country’s connectivity to the high-spending and long-staying tourism markets overseas, as well as spur trade linkages.
After the launching of Emirates, GMCAC chief executive advisor Andrew Harrison said there are more new direct flights Cebuanos should watch out for this year.
Declining to disclose specific details, Harrison said GMCAC is actively in talks with carriers for more long-haul flights to open services in MCIA. He also confirmed Qatar Airway’s re-entry to Cebu towards the end of this year.
“Sixty-three percent of international tourists in Cebu are Koreans. Although we are happy (about this), we need diversification and that we can’t just depend on one region to realize our tourism potentials,” said Harrison.
He said Emirates’ entry, for instance, will allow Cebu to increase its European arrivals, which is one of Cebu’s long-overdue goals. Harrison noted Europeans are long-staying guests, staying an average of 10 nights on a holiday compared to intra-ASEAN guests who stay an average of four nights.
“The entrance of Emirates to Cebu is a welcome treat for tourism and local businesses. With the goal of the DOT and the hotel industry of attracting meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) to our shores, Emirates will make it easier to connect the West to Cebu. This will boost arrivals, hopefully by another 15 percent,” said Julie Najar, president of Hotels, Resorts, and Restaurants Association of Cebu (HRRAC) in previous interviews.
“With connectivity in place, we are now in direct position to capture this high-value tourism markets,” said Alice Queblatin, Tourism Congress vice president for Travel and Tour Group for Visayas.