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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Regular passenger traffic seen at Naia for long ‘Undas’ break

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Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror

THE Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is projecting regular passenger flows through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), with the long “Undas” break spreading out departures and arrivals.

In a news briefing Thursday, MIAA Officer-in-Charge Bryan Co said, “We are expecting an average of 120,000 to 130,000 passengers or a total of 1.2 million passengers for the 10-day period starting Friday, October 27. We do not expect any significant surge in terms of the number of passengers we’re processing daily, maybe just 8-10 percent [higher] at the most, but those are tolerable limits…. It’s like having a weekend compared to a weekday…comparable to the last Holy Week.”

In terms of resolving possible choke points, Co said there are now 44 Immigration counters at Naia Terminal 3, up from 29 at the start of the year, which he said have been adequately complemented by Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel.

Separately, BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval told the BusinessMirror the agency is well prepared for the departures and arrivals during the Undas break. “We have assigned new immigration officers at the airport, as well as prepared augmentation action teams and mobile counters, ready for deployment as needed.”

Poor bookings in Boracay

For its part, Cebu Pacific said some 432,000 passengers are flying to domestic destinations from October 26 to November 6, while international passengers are around 163,000. But airline spokesperson Carmina Reyes pointed out that “more capacity is also offered for domestic [routes]. In terms of seat-load factors, they are roughly the same at 73 percent.”

Boracay Island, however, won’t be benefiting as much from the long Undas break. According to Boracay Foundation Inc. president Dindo Salazar, resorts are reporting low occupancies for the upcoming break. “We’re always ready for an influx of tourists, but they are still minimal, especially foreign tourists. As such, room rates are not yet on the pre-pandemic level as we still cater mostly to locals/domestic travelers.”

He said this was “unusual” for this period, but theorizes, “Domestic travelers haven’t booked in advance because they are now more into international travel. They already supported domestic travel last year.” He noted that the high domestic airfare may be one of the hindrances to getting more bookings for the Undas break. As early as two months ago, this reporter found round trip airfare either from Manila or Clark to Caticlan, ranged from P8,000 to P12,000 per person (inclusive of 10-kg luggage).

Where Pinoys are going

Viajantes Travel & Tours Services General Manager Marlene Dado Jante, confirmed that Filipinos have found it cheaper to take their Undas break abroad, instead of traveling locally. For instance, her client, a medical company bringing 35 staff on an incentive tour to Bangkok from November 2 to 5, will be paying $699 (P39,843) per person. This includes airfare, hotel stay, transfers, and tours, she stressed. In comparison, she cited a seaside 5-star hotel charging P15,000 per night during the period.

According to CEB, Bangkok is one of their top international destinations this holiday, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Dubai, and Seoul.

“I wish our hotels offer value-for-money rates so they can book more,” said Jante, former president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association Inc.

Staycations for many

In nearby Tagaytay, the picture is not so pretty for Taal Vista Hotel, according to Peggy Angeles, executive vice president of the SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. “We are not running choc-a-bloc unlike other long weekends. This is because of the on-and-off news regarding Taal Volcano. Hopefully, there will be a last-minute pickup [in bookings],” she said.

Fortunately, the story is better for its Pico Sands Hotel in Nasugbu. “Occupancy running pretty good on books from October 28 ‘til November 1. Not fully booked though. There are still a few rooms left from October 28 to 31. A bit more rooms on November 1,” she added. She noted that even during other long breaks or holidays, guests usually just book a two- to three-day stay at the hotel.

Meanwhile, AyalaLand Hotels & Resorts Corp. President Javier D. Hernandez said: “Seda Hotels [are] fully equipped to welcome a surge of staycation tourists during the upcoming long weekend. We have proactively prepared our staff, enhanced our amenities, and managed inventory to guarantee a quality experience for our guests who choose to stay at our properties. Our commitment to delivering exceptional hospitality remains unwavering, and we are dedicated to ensuring that every guest has a memorable and enjoyable stay.”

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