By Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – More and more Filipinos are traveling the world over and this has made them a “significant market” in the global airline industry.
“We recognize the significance of the Filipino market in the airline industry that is why we have daily flights to Manila and Cebu,” declared Tony Tyler, the Chief Executive Officer of Cathay Pacific during the recent LA press conference of Oneworld, the world’s leading quality airline alliance.
The CEO of Japan Airlines, Haruka Nishimatsu, echoed the same sentiment when he stated at the same event in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey last week that the “Filipino market is very important” and JAL recognizes “the value of Filipinos” in their corporate strategy.
Major increase in international and domestic travels
Recent surveys substantiate the Filipino market’s value in the airline industry. In the second half of 2007 Travel report by MasterCard Worldwide, the Philippines ranked in the top 5 in outbound travel across Asia Pacific. The report anticipated an increase in year-on-year growth in the volume of outbound air travel in the Philippines (5.7 percent), Australia (5.6 percent), Indonesia (5.6 percent), Hong Kong (4.9 percent), and New Zealand (2.1 percent).
But the most recent report by MasterCard (2008) has even increased the forecast for the Philippines outbound travel to a 5.9% year-on-year growth, expecting 1.3 million Filipinos traveling outside of the country in the first six months of 2008.
The increase in the number of airborne Filipinos is not just confined to outbound travelers. Recent industry data reveal that the air travel within the Philippines is the third fastest growing market in the world, after India and Mexico. The country’s domestic air travel market grew by 23 percent with almost 10.4 million Filipino travelers in 2007 compared with 8.5 million passengers in 2006.
Hawaiian Airlines now flies to Manila
Noting the considerable growth of the number of Filipinos traveling to and from the Philippines, another international airline has taken a major corporate move targeting the market. A few days ago, Hawaiian Airlines made its first flight to Manila, marking their first route to Asia in their 79-year history. The maiden flight launched the first of four weekly nonstop flights to Manila.
The president of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerly, was excited with the company’s new flights to Manila. “ We think there’s going to be a growing economic relationship between the state of Hawaii and the Philippines,” he added.
Filipinos in North America- major market
A considerable number of Filipino air travelers visit North America.
For the US inbound travelers, most of the Filipino visitors go to California. In 2006, of the 154,000 Filipino visitors, 69%, or 105,000 visited California. These Filipinos tended to center their trip itineraries on the major cities of Los Angeles (69%), San Francisco (48%) and Anaheim (11%).
For the US outbound Filipinos, a majority of them travel to visit the Philippines. The Philippine Department of Tourism estimates an average of 1 million balikbayans visit the country every year, most of them coming from the US. And this number continues to increase with 80,000 Filipinos migrating to the US yearly, adding to the current 4 million Filipinos in America.
Another country in North America with a substantial number of Filipino travelers is Canada. Last week, Statistics Canada reported that the country’s “visible minorities” now number more than five million due to the huge influx of Asian immigrants, coming mostly from China and the Philippines.
Cathay Pacific CEO Tony Tyler took note of this highly profitable market stressing that “The Filipino market in our North America routes is specially important to Cathay Pacific”.
Tyler, who admitted that he feels a special attachment to the Philippines having lived there for a time while working in the Cathay Pacific Manila office, said Cathay is enhancing its services to better serve its Filipino passengers, continually offering promotions and special offers to attract and satisfy its market.
“For our Filipino passengers- like our other passengers, we give very, very good rates -from first class to economy. Cheap rates compared to others, “ said Tyler.
More Filipina Flight Attendants
Perhaps another recognition of the Filipinos’ contribution to the airline industry is the move of several airlines to include Filipina flight attendants to their cabin crew.
Haruka Nishimatsu, the CEO of Japan Airlines, highlighted the fact that the JAL Group recognizes the value of Filipinos in their corporate strategy as demonstrated by recent major corporate moves taken by its subsidiary JALways Co. Ltd.
In what Nishimatsu calls a “unique project”, JALways has recently employed 20 Filipina flight attendants and opened a training center in Manila.
JAL Manager for Public Relations, Stephen Pearlman, reported why the JAL Group took the unprecedented move involving the Filipinos. “We recognize the Filipinas’ excellent bilingual skills, their very hospitable nature, and their innate warm and caring service. This is why the JAL Group decided to hire a big number of Filipinas,” said Pearlman,
“We are confident that the Filipinas can further enhance our service. They will surely give our passengers the JAL brand of care and attention and maintain our high standards of service, “Pearlman added.
Another airline, Atlasjet Airlines, Turkey’s leading private airline company, also recently recruited 56 Filipina flight attendants for their operations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Filipinas underwent a three-week training program and were assigned to service domestic flights in Saudi Arabia.
With all these significant developments in the travel industry, RP President Arroyo has reported the government’s ambitious aim of reaching 5 million tourists by the end of the decade. With ventures such as the opening of a Shangri-La hotel in Boracay and the Manila Ocean Park in 2008, and promoting the country’s ecotourism and medical tourism, the number of Filipino travelers is indeed anticipated to grow at an even more sustained pace in the future.