Cebu’s air traffic to, from North Asia bound to plunge

Carlo Lorenciana


CEBU’S aviation traffic growth is in peril as some parts of North Asia, its biggest market, are facing travel restrictions.

According to Capa Center for Aviation, North Asia accounted for about 84 percent of Cebu’s international seat capacity and 81 percent of its international destinations.

With China and its special administrative regions now facing travel bans, Cebu’s overall traffic to and from greater North Asia is bound to plunge.

Based on the 2019 figures by Capa and aviation data provider OAG, Cebu had weekly seats of 85,505 to and from North Asia, accounting for about 19 percent of the nationwide seat capacity total.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) had seen a daily average drop of 2,000 arriving international passengers since the travel restrictions were imposed, according to Andrew Acquaah-Harrison, chief executive advisor at GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp.

MCIA has 18 destinations in North Asia, including seven in China, three in Japan, four in South Korea and two in Taiwan. Hong Kong and Macau account for the remaining two destinations.

On Feb. 02, 2020, the Philippine government has since restricted travelers to and from China, Macau and Hong Kong amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Eventually, it also included travel restriction to Taiwan but it was immeditaely lifted, and South Korea whose travel ban was partially lifted to exclude North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County.

Alice Queblatin, president of the Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists, expected foreign arrivals to Cebu to drop in the early months of 2020 amid the challenges faced by the travel industry.

The country’s top international markets in North Asia are South Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to Capa.

These five markets combined accounted for about 55 percent of the country’s total international seat capacity.

Nicholas Antonio Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank, said the travel disruptions are derailing the economic activity.

He said the Philippines should expect a drop of visitors from its traditional markets such as Korea and Japan as global air travel is heavily affected.

In 2019, MCIA handled 12.66 million passengers, up 11 percent.

International passengers grew significantly, hitting 4.29 million, up 14 percent.

The Philippines-North Asia market is primarily an inbound leisure market especially for Cebu.

The capacity from the region had been increasing rapidly, driving fast growth for the overall Philippine international market.

Capacity has increased by nearly 70 percent over the past four years, according to Capa and OAG data.