South Korea-Davao direct flights sought

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Monday, June 17, 2013

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) in Davao Region said Friday that it met with four airline companies last June 1-2 in a bid to introduce Davao City as the next destination for South Korean tourists.

Only a measly percentage of Korean tourists in the Philippines goes to Davao City annually, DOT-Davao Director Art Boncato said, adding that the only way to increase it is to establish new direct flights.

"The primary reason why we met them is to introduce Davao and many of them, especially Koreans, know little about Davao. We made sure that they understood what Davao is, how far it is from Korea, and what tourism products we have here," he said.


He said only around 8,000 Korean tourists were reported in the city in 2012 and that's a fair bit of the 1.2 million Korean tourists recorded in the Philippines.

The four airlines with whom Boncato met were Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Jin Air, and Zest Air. Of the four, two are interested with the proposal.

"The details of which I cannot discuss it with you because everything is currently being worked out," he said.

"The target is to increase the number of Korean arrivals, overall in the country, the only way to do that is to introduce new destinations, the only way to make destinations successful is to have direct flights to those destinations, maybe charter or commercial," he said.

Last Friday, a group of 10 operators and tour guides from one of the biggest tour operators in South Korea, Hana Tours, visited the city to explore what tourism products it has to offer.

"Through their Cebu office, they sent 10, nine of those are frist timers in Davao," he said.

Boncato also said that the 10-man group was a direct response to the call of tourism office in South Korea that Davao City the "next destination" during 26th Korean World Travel Fair last May 30 to June 2.

"We have to work on many things, connectivity, our quality of services, etc... In the Philippine pavillion in the Korean Work Travel Fair, Davao was the main feature," he said.

He said if tour operators will see that there's a demand, they themselves will establish direct flights.

"If they see there's a demand, the tour operators themselves will do the charter. It does not take over night to develop a foreign market, especially that in the Philippines in terms of distance we are the farthest compared to Manila, Clark, and Cebu," he said.

Boncato also said that he want the direct flights to be established the soonest time. However, he added that finding new international market is not an overnight work.

In its bid to lure more tourists from South Korea, DOT 11 is eyeing on "voluntourism" wherein student volunteers will be sent to Davao for some volunteering works.

Boncato said a group of 30 students from Sun Moon Uniersity in Asan City, South Korean will arrive in the city next week, and a week after that, its president Sunjo Hwang will have an official in Davao to personally the city.

"He wants to see na okay ang city and okay ang Samal," he said.

Boncato said the university president will be meeting with another university from Davao City to discuss about exchange program, which may eventually result in a signing of memorandum of understanding.

"The president of Sun Moon University will get in touch with university, probabaly Ateneo (Ateneo de Davao University), and we will let them talk, and the whatever transpires durign the talk will probably be the content of the MOU or eventually an MOA," he said.

DOT-Davao also met with Sooncheonhyang University and Ansan University, according to Boncato.

"They have programs in their international affairs division such as volunteer works and english as the second language. We're veruy lucky to be able to meet with them," he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 17, 2013.


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