Qatar Airways Ceases Cebu-Doha Route

CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines - After nearly nine years servicing the Cebu-Doha route, international airline company Qatar Airways has announced that it will cease to operate this route effective March 26 this year.

In an advisory sent to its partners and clients, the airline said it will stop servicing the Cebu-Doha route because of rising fuel cost and high operating expenses. The airline said passengers with flights after March 26 will be provided with alternative flights like the Manila-Doha route that flies twice-weekly.

Qatar Airways flies from Doha to Cebu three times weekly, with average travel time between both locations being nine and a half hours.

Meanwhile, local tourism players here say they are crossing their fingers that Qatar Airways will reconsider such decision considering that the Cebu-Doha route is the only direct link from Cebu to Europe via the Middle East.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Director for Central Visayas Rowena Montecillo, for one, is hopeful that the airline will reconsider its decision on the matter, especially since she says the European travel market is starting to pick up.

''We acknowledge that this is a business decision but I personally would want to know the problems of the airlines, so we'll know how government and the private sector can help,'' Montecillo said, adding that she has scheduled an appointment with Qatar Airways management within the week.

Montecillo said Cebu's booming tourism industry is highly dependent on connectivity to other countries to attract more foreign arrivals.

She noted an increase of 76 percent in the number of Russian tourists alone last year. Arrivals from Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark, among other European countries, are also growing.

DOT 7 recorded a growth of 6.43 percent in European tourist arrivals or 124,276 tourists last year over 116,763 European tourists that visited Cebu in 2010.

She said the Cebu-Doha route plays a significant role in the growth of arrivals by European visitors coming to Cebu and the rest of Central Visayas.

Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) President Hans Hauri said the association is also appealing for Qatar Airways to not suspend its Cebu-Doha flights.

''The HRRAC is making an appeal to Qatar Airways Management for a reconsideration as we need their service for our connection to and from Europe. Traffic via Manila is not a desirable option. DoT must intervene to reach our goal of four million foreign tourist arrivals for 2012,'' Hauri said, who is also the general manager of Marco Polo Plaza in Cebu.