European tourists expected to pour in

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More European tourists are expected to visit the country after the European Union (EU) lifted a three-year ban on local airlines, top officials said.


Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said he expects a “significant increase” in tourist arrivals from Europe, where flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) may again fly.

European tourists, sans PAL flights to Europe, have already spiked by 8.5 percent to 213, 598 arrivals from January to March 2013 from 196,754 visitors a year ago.

“The United Kingdom, Germany and France are among the key European markets with stable influx to the country,” Jimenez’s statement on Thursday read.

Once PAL flights to and from Europe are made available later this year, tourist influx will likely “include those from adjacent countries,” Jimenez said.

“PAL will be able to effectively augment the existing services by foreign carriers that cater to tourists in the region,” he added, noting this will contribute to the goal of 10 million tourists by 2016.

The European Union on Wednesday dropped PAL from its so-called air safety list, which tags airlines banned from making flights to the bloc’s 23 member states.

All Philippine carriers have been included in the list in 2010, after the International Civil Aviation Authority highlighted problems in complying with safety policies.

Welcoming the development, Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda lauded the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), which EU cited for competence.

Aside from boosting tourism, direct flights to Europe will also “enhance competitiveness and facilitate the entry of investments from the Eurozone,” Lacierda said.

Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya, for his part, called the easing “an assurance to the public of the country’s compliance with international aviation safety standards.”

While all other airlines in the Philippines however remain banned in EU member states, Abaya said budget carrier Cebu Pacific may be re-evaluated within six months.

The Gokongwei-led airline this year figured in at least two airport mishaps: one of its planes overshot the Davao airport runway in June while another skidded at the NAIA runway.

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