Travel industry confident in rebound despite inflation

By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

TRAVEL industry officials remain confident in a tourism rebound despite rising prices, with bookings and applications already exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

“From what I can see in our travel agency, we are experiencing an increase in demand for… individual bookings and group bookings; I’m sure that airlines and hotels are also experiencing that,” Travel Sale Expo Chairperson Michelle Taylan said at the Travel Sale Expo 2023 news conference on Monday.

She said that the increase in bookings reflects how the “thirst to travel” is still supporting demand despite the rising prices.

“We are experiencing problems, but the people still want to travel,” she said.

“Even a business class (seat) is not that easy for us to book because it’s always full. And this is very interesting and we really don’t know the reason… we just came from the pandemic,” she added.

Jagmohan Tamber, director of online visa application center BLS International, said visa applications have also surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

“In BLS before the pandemic, we accepted applications for Spain visa appointments of around 100 a day … After the pandemic, we are now accepting 135 to 150 every day, but it is still increasing,” Mr. Tamber said.

He added that this is also the same for its agency in Poland, which recorded a more than double the normal level of visa applications.

“Just seeing the difference … I think travel is very good now,” he said.

Marissa Dimaano, assistant vice-president for passenger sales at Philippine Airlines (PAL), said airlines achieved record results in the first half.

“Thanks to our loyal patrons, PAL was actually able to achieve record results for the first half of 2023. And this is really telling how the travel industry has really bounced back from the pandemic,” Ms. Dimaano said.

She said that in the first half, the flag carrier saw an 89% increase in passenger volumes last year and booked record revenue.

“That enabled us to actually invest in new aircraft, new technology and customer experiences for our travelers,” she said.

“With these very positive numbers, we hope that we will be able to sustain it with this hunger for travel for many of our Filipino travelers, as well as our international foreign travelers coming into the Philippines as well,” she added.

United Airlines Philippine country manager for sales Pam C. Navarro said that the airline has been exceeding expectations.

“I’m also happy to share that on the global level, regional level and at the local level we’re doing much better than expected,” she said.

She added that the airline’s fleet buildup during the pandemic reflected its confidence it is in the recovery of the sector.

“We placed orders for 700 aircraft, a combination of wide and narrow bodies, in anticipation of the return of travel,” she said.

The airline has announced plans to operate a Manila-San Francisco service.

“(We are confident) not just in the Philippine market but also on the traffic coming from the US, because ultimately you would want to look at the market from both sides of the world. And the demand is really there, it’s really booming,” she added.

On the sidelines of the briefing, Ms. Navarro said that the direct flight to San Francisco from Manila is only one of the flights that the airline will be launching but noted that it is the most popular route for the US market.

Kesler U. Go, marketing and Philippine representative of Guam Visitors Bureau, said that Guam has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“But if you look at it in a bigger picture, Guam has seen a 200% recovery from 2022 and that includes tourists coming in from Japan and Korea,” he said.