Forgone tourism revenues as a result of the country’s being placed on Category 2 status by the United States Federal Aviation Administration have reached more than P66.3 billion over the past two years, prompting local travel agencies to appeal to the government to do something about the situation.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Philippine Travel Agencies Association president Aileen Clemente said the country’s Category 2 status, which prevents local carriers from expanding their flights to the US, has stunted tourism growth.
Ms. Clemente said American tourists accounted for 17 percent, or about 600,000, of arrivals last year. These excluded visitors from Guam. American tourists usually stayed an average of 18 days in the country, each spending P2,600 a day.
Had local carriers been allowed to expand their services to the US, she said the country would have gotten an additional 1.4 million American tourists from 2009 to the present. This only considered Philippine Airlines’ possible addition of 42 new flights a week and excluded those flights that rival Cebu Pacific Air could have operated.
With the Category 2 status in force, PAL is limited to flying 33 times a week to various destinations in the US, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Guam, and Las Vegas via Vancouver.
“(The US) is already an established market that we believe has more room for expansion. We did not just lose a substantial number of tourists from the US over the last two years. The government also lost the opportunity to provide jobs to 150,000 of our countrymen,” Clemente noted.
The US FAA downgraded the Philippines to Category 2 safety status in January 2008, effectively banning local carriers from expanding their operations in the US.—Abigail L. Ho