Palawan will fill Boracay gap

MANILA, 20 April 2018: Airlines in the Philippines are boosting flights to various beach destinations to compensate for the closure of Boracay that takes effect 26 April.

This week, Philippine Airlines confirmed it would add new services from Palawan to South Korea’s Seoul and Busan.

The new nonstop service from Puerto Princesa to Busan in South Korea will start 26 July with four weekly flights, while a daily service to Seoul Incheon will start 24 June.

Both services will use Airbus A321s.

South Korea is a top market for the Philippines supplying 1.6 million tourists last year with Boracay and Cebu the most popular destinations.

Earlier this month, both Cebu Pacific and PAL confirmed they would increase services to beach destinations throughout the country to compensate for Boracay’s closure.

PAL’s management said it expected Visayas, Mindanao and Palawan to benefit the most as the airline redirects more flights from China, Korea and Taiwan to Cebu and Puerto Princesa, with some passengers travelling on to Siargao, Camiguin, Coron and Butuan.

The government and commercial airlines believe Palawan island could act as a buffer zone to potentially reduce the impact of the Boracay closure on the aviation and tourism sectors in the Philippines.

Reliable sources at PAL said the challenge was to successfully promote Palawan with travel agents in China and Korea, while the airline would need to relocate crews from Kalibo to Puerto Princesa.

Philippine Airlines, Philippines AirAsia and Cebu Pacific have been operating several international flights to  Kalibo International Airport, one of the two gateways to Boracay.

With the exception of a few domestic flights to serve local residents on Boracay all flights to the two airports serving the island will be suspended.

But Boracay’s loss could be Palawan’s gain, as airlines move flights from Kalibo’s and Caticlan airports to Puerto Princesa.

Tourism officials said the shift to Palawan could help stem the decline in total visitor numbers to the Philippines this year after the closure of Boracay. Estimates suggest as many as 2 million tourists head for Boracay annually.  The strategy now is to convince travel agents and travellers to visit other beach destinations, or the country could face a possible drop of 1 million tourist this year. The country welcomed 6.6 million visitors in 2017 and  for this year was targeting 7.5 million.

Palawan is one of the best destinations in the Philippines that could easily absorb traffic that was booked for Boracay. Puerto Princesa Airport, the main gateway to Palawan, opened a new international terminal in 2017.

Philippine authorities will close Boracay for six months starting 26 April, as government departments address the health and environmental issues on the island.

Airlines will scale back their services to Caticlan and Kalibo airports for a six-month period