Friday, April 5, 2013

ICAO finding to provide support to PHL tourism target

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s lifting of significant safety concerns on air travel in the Philippines will increase tourist arrivals to the country, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said in a statement Tuesday. “This is one of the crucial steps that will lead to increased flights to and from the Philippines – allowing local carriers to mount to long-haul markets such as the US and Europe, and foreign and local tourists to travel domestically with even greater confidence,” it said. The department was referring to the ICAO's finding that the country has “successfully addressed and resolved” safety concerns. “This development will certainly make the country more competitive and will contribute tremendously in achieving the tourism sector's target of 10 million international visitors by 2016,” the statement read. ICAO's lifting of significant safety concerns came after a five-day audit last month. ICAO's action is seen as a way to upgrade the country back to Category 1 status. Last week, Civil Aeronautics Board deputy executive director Porvenir Porciuncula said the country is eyeing more air seats from overseas, but noted that the Category 2 status imposed on the Philippines prevents local airlines' mounting of additional flights. For instance, the Category 2 status is a hurdle for local carriers in securing overseas seats to and from Korea, a key tourist market for the Philippines. In 2008, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment Program placed the Philippines on the Category 2 list because of deficiencies identified under the Universal Safety Oversight Audit program of the ICAO. Due to the category downgrade, Philippine carriers were prohibited from expanding operations in the US and – since 2010 – were banned from the European Union. With a Category 2 rating, air carriers are still allowed to continue their operations to the US, but under tightened FAA surveillance. In 2012, the DOT recorded 4.3 million foreign tourists, 98 percent of whom arrived by air. The DOT plans to increase the share of tourism to gross domestic product and employment. —