Cebu is the “perfect destination” for Chinese tourists because they are into diving and love the water and islands, said AirAsia China, North Asia President Kathleen Tan.
AirAsia launched today its daily Cebu-Shanghai flights at the new Terminal 2 of Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
“Cebu has so much to offer. You have a rich culture and amazing, beautiful islands,” said Tan during the inaugural ceremonies. “The Chinese love to eat. Food is very important to them, and shopping.”
“Cebu,” Tan told those gathered at the event, “your city will never be the same again with China coming in.”
AirAsia Philippines CEO Capt. Dexter Comendador said the new terminal provides the airline “great capacity for long-term growth and expansion in Cebu as AirAsia’s hub.”
He said AirAsia now has 3 planes based in Cebu, which is the most outside Manila, ground equipment to support it, and about 200 employees.
“It’s a huge investment for us but we’re very happy that we did the right thing in connecting with China. It’s the largest market.” Comendador said.
Market doing very well
He said they initially only wanted to divert passengers from Boracay, with the closure of the island in April, but “we found out that the market is working very well.”
“It’s a good problem for me,” Comendador said, “because when Boracay opens, I will need to find other planes to fly that route because I cannot, I will not, pull out the routes that we have established as alternate to Boracay.”
Tan described the development as “very exciting” because the airline has been able to connect “Cebu to a very important market. China is now ranked as one of the biggest outbound travel market in the world.”
She described the initial response as very encouraging, with the inaugural flight from Shanghai to Cebu set to arrive past midnight at 99% of load capacity with 179 passengers.
Tan said forward sales also show good booking rates. She said they are aiming to have at least 80% load factor for the routes.
She said the Chinese “now have a big appetite for travel.” It is a “lifestyle commodity” especially for travelers from Shanghai.
She also said that she learned from Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Antonio Chiu that after they opened their routes to China, there have been Chinese business people who expressed interest in investing in Cebu.
Young, independent travelers
Tan said many of their customers are those born in the 1980s and 1990s and they see more independent and young Chinese travelers. To engage them, she encouraged those in the industry to go digital, mobile, and social.
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale welcomed the new routes as opportunities for Cebu to get more exposure to the Chinese market.
Magpale said that with the opening of Terminal 2, Cebu can accommodate more international flights.
Cebu is ready
“Cebu is really, really ready for more Chinese tourists,” she said during the event.
“With these added flights, we know that we will hit our 10 million mark for Cebu. We’ve asked the hotels, the resorts and they are really ready. The Provincial Government as well as the City Government are right behind the business community to make Cebu ready,” she added.
Chinese Embassy Deputy Consul Wu Xiaomin said that last year, the number of tourists from China to the Philippines increased 75%, the fastest growing among foreign markets.
“Tourism brings economic benefits both to the host country and the tourists’ home country,” he said. “I believe that improved relations between the Philippines and China is a key factor in the improved tourism market.”
Facebook Livestream of event