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ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – Direct flights between Cebu and Laoag will be opened to travelers by Philippine Airlines (PAL) beginning Friday, December 15, a move that is seen to boost tourism and access in the two areas of the country.
In a press briefing in Cebu on Monday, December 11, Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc joined PAL and Cebu officials in formally introducing the opening of direct flights following the Cebu-Laoag-Cebu route.
Manotoc said Ilocos Norte have tourist spots to be offered to visitors that are “hidden gems, that are not, I guess, top of mind. They are up-and-coming.”
He cited Badoc Island, a white-sand, virgin beach Island in Badoc town, and the Solsona-Apayao road which offers a scenic view of lush greenery, the Cordillera mountain range, and at times, a sea of clouds.
Manotoc emphasized that Ilocos Norte can still offer an array of tourism spots and experiences to visitors.
“I’d like to always say that we are the only province in the Philippines that can offer a slice of Dubai, a slice of dunes, of Boracay in our white-sand beach in Pagudpud, and a slice of Baguio in Solsona-Apayao road,” he said.
He said there are still many things to enjoy in Ilocos Norte for its “young and adventurous travelers which is our market, the younger demographic from Metro Manila” but emphasized that the new effort to open direct flights from Cebu to Laoag would expand its market to attract young travelers, but also families, from areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Both Cebu and Ilocos Norte signed a sisterhood agreement in 2013 which is aimed to be strengthened through active partnerships in tourism, agriculture, renewable energy, and other possible areas of investment.
The Ilocos Norte tourism office earlier noted that they conducted a marketing study that showed a demand for travelers from the Visayas and Mindanao to the northern parts of the country without going through the country’s capital.
In October, the Ilocos Norte provincial board approved a resolution that authorized Manotoc to enter into an agreement with PAL for a “joint marketing partnership” that would ensure the sustainability of the newly opened route.
The agreement entailed that the provincial government would pay a “hard block price” or equivalent to 20 seats per flight “in case the provincial government fails to sell the reserved tickets,” according to a report from the Philippine News Agency.
Manotoc said the provincial government is also willing to “work with tour operators and travel agencies, and PAL, to make sure to put together more integrated and affordable tour packages.”
In an earlier statement, PAL said that a fleet of 86-seat De Havilland Dash 8-400s would be used to fly the route.
“This brand-new service will help us open up a new market for tourist and business travelers by connecting the Ilocos Region via nonstop flights to Cebu, and beyond to other cities in the Visayas and Mindanao,” according to PAL president and chief operating officer Stanley Ng in a statement.
PAL, the country’s flag carrier, said the Cebu-Laoag-Cebu route will be available twice a week, every Tuesday and Friday at 7:35 am, and arriving at 10:05 am. Flights will be available from Laoag at 10:25 am to arrive in Cebu at 12:35 pm.
Travelers can book a flight seat through firstname.lastname@example.org. – Rappler.com