HONG KONG’S tourism chief has called for the indefinite continuation of the travel ban to the Philippines, Radio Television Hong Kong reported Wednesday.
In remarks during ceremonies to mark the 15th anniversary of the Travel and Tourism Training Center, Tourism Board chairman James Tien said even if the travel warning were lifted, many people would not feel like visiting the Philippines after the Aug. 23 hostage-taking in which eight Chinese tourists were killed in Manila.
The Hong Kong government issued the black alert—the most severe of a three-stage alert system—suspending package tours and advising travelers not to visit the Philippines to protest the botched rescue attempt.
The incident and the continuing travel ban have taken their toll on Philippine Airlines, which has reported a rise in canceled bookings from Hong Kong and China over the last few days.
A spokeswoman for the airline, Cielo Villaluna, told Manila Standard that the cancellations had reached 1,100 as of Friday, up from 558 two days earlier.
“We would peg the losses at around P15 million to P16 million in terms of these booking cancellations,” Villaluna said, noting that the average revenue loss for each passenger was $300.
“As expected, our load factor to these routes also declined,” she said.
Villaluna said the flag carrier was evaluating the situation to determine if it would maintain the number of flights between Hong Kong and Manila.
So far, flights to and from Hong Kong were still about 70 percent full, she said. Given the circumstances, promotional offers to boost traffic would be out of place.
“It might not be in good taste if we came up with promotional offers and leaflets,” she said.
Philippine Airlines operates 10 daily flights to and from Hong Kong and 46 weekly flights to and from Xiamen, Shanghai, Beijing and Macau. It says it carries 40 percent of the annual tourist arrivals from Hong Kong, which totaled 123,000 last year.
Budget carrier Cebu Pacific said it had accommodated about 1,000 requests for re-booking or cancellations from passengers in China and Hong Kong.
“We have also seen a slight softening of forward bookings for our Hong Kong-Cebu and Shanghai-Manila flights,” the carrier said in a statement, but forward bookings from Hong Kong to Manila and Clark, and from Guangzhou to Manila were still climbing.
Jeremiah De Guzman, Manila Standard Today