Friday, 9 April 2010

Gov’t alarmed by tour cancellations due to EU ban on carriers


THE CIVIL Aviation Authority of the Philippines should promptly resolve the European Union’s (EU) ban on Philippine air carriers, since the move has already triggered "an alarming number of tour cancellations from Europe," the Tourism department said in a statement yesterday.

Last March 31, the EU included the Philippines in its 13th updated list of countries with carriers banned from that region’s airspace, as a precautionary step based on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s downgrading of the country’s safety rating to Category 2 and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s concern on aviation safety regulators.

"Major European travel operators from Germany, UK and France have regretfully informed us their booking cancellations. The entire industry is affected, as European arrivals account for a significant percentage of our target in the first quarter. In January 2010, air arrivals from European countries already posted an 11% growth," the statement quoted Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" H. Durano as saying.

The department noted that tourist arrivals from Europe started the year on a promising note last January, with those from the United Kingdom increasing 18% to 7,837 from last year; those from Germany rising 0.6% to 5,161; France, up 11.9% to 2,537; Sweden, up 15% to 2,048; the Netherlands, up 12.4% to 1,579; Denmark, up 3.5% to 1,401; Austria, up 17% to 1,249; Spain, up 8.7% to 912; and Belgium, up by a fourth to 763.

Tours which were cancelled were mainly for the April-August period, the department noted. "The longer we remain in the blacklist, the harder it would be for us to recover from these significant losses. If we resolve this matter by the second quarter, we can expect a recovery in the third and fourth quarters," Mr. Durano said.

While Philippine carriers have not been flying to EU states since 1999 even before the ban, the EU’s prohibition has prompted travel insurance firms in Europe to advise travel operators that tour packages to the Philippines which include domestic air travel will not be covered. Hence, tour operators had to cancel bookings due to the difficulty of selling travel packages to the country which include inter-island travel by air.

"It’s a very sad day for us. All our blood, sweat and tears in building up the European market in your country are all down the drain," an executive of a major French travel operator said in the same statement.

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