Live blog: Routes Asia 2019

Our live blog from Routes Asia 2019, the only route development event dedicated to the Asia Pacific region.

Follow our live blog for updates throughout Routes Asia 2019, the only route development event dedicated to the Asia-Pacific region, taking place in Cebu.

Follow #RoutesAsia on Twitter

Tuesday 12 March

17.00 - See all the images from Cebu!

Our Facebook gallery features some of the best images from Routes Asia 2019!

16.30 - Congratulations!

16.00 - Vietnam and Cambodia 'next on the Chinese tourist trail'

Vietnam and Cambodia could be set to benefit from the huge rise in outbound tourism from China, an expert has said.

Hang Zhao, business development manager and consultant at aviation consultancy ASM Global, said data indicates that these destinations are likely to see rapid growth in the near future.

Although Thailand will remain as the largest outbound market from China, since 2010 seats between China and Vietnam have grown from 1.6 million to 5.9 million.

In Cambodia the market has grown from 0.75 million to 4 million.

Zhao outlined China’s incredible growth; in 2018 the total passenger throughput by all civil airports in China was 1.265 billion, a 10.2 percent increase from 2017.

Some 3,615 aircraft will be operated by Chinese carriers by the end of 2018, 426 higher than 2016, while 13 airlines have 408 wide-bodies in total, 236 of which these are A330 (57.8 percent).

However challenges remain, including insufficient use of traffic rights. Until 2017, only 58 country destination has direct service from China by Chinese Carriers out of total 122 countries with air traffic relationships with China.

And Zhao also said the market is currently heavily imbalanced, lacking African and Latin American routes.

15.00 - Airport capacity: Asia 'must not follow in Europe’s footsteps' 

Countries across the Asia Pacific region need to fully apply World Slot Guidelines (WSG) in order to ensure that demand does not outstrip capacity. That’s according to Philip Ireland, IATA’s manager for Worldwide Airport Slots.

Speaking on a panel session at Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu, he said there are about 300 congested airports globally. Of the 200 most congested, roughly half of them are in Europe.

“Asia has the strongest growth potential of any region in the world and so the challenge is not to follow in Europe’s footsteps. The challenge is to get capacity out there now and as fast as possible,” he stressed.

“But the biggest challenge we have is ensuring there is a global solution. With any route, there’s an airport at both ends.

“Right now there are a certain number of airports which are doing their own processes unilaterally. What we really need is a single consistent adoption of the Worldwide Slot Guidelines.”

Fellow panellist Stephen Milstrey, the general manager for network planning and scheduling at Hong Kong-based HK Express, outlined the difficulties of trying to build a network from one of the world’s most-congested airports.

He said that the airport’s answer seems to call on airlines to add capacity, but HK Express’ niche is operating unserved routes, which cannot be done profitably with a wide-body.

Milstrey added: “More than 50 percent of our routes have a slot constrained airport at the other end, as well as being slot constrained in Hong Kong.

“We have some really great slots at an airport this summer season, but we had to give half of them back because we couldn’t get the required slots on the Hong Kong side to make it work. It’s a huge problem to have.”

Read the full article

14.00 - Chiang Mai's international hub ambitions

As Routes Asia 2019 draws to a close, the hosting baton was passed to next year’s hosts, Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT), who will hold the event in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

AOT owns six international airports and previously hosted Routes Asia in 2006 in Pattaya. Thailand’s plan for the future of its aviation industry is based around a masterplan which incorporates the streamlining of air transport strategies with enhancing the effectiveness of capacity expansion at airports as well as air traffic, with the ultimate intention of Thailand becoming an aviation hub for all of South East Asia.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Routes brand director Steven Small said: “We are excited to be supporting AOT with their goal of growing Chiang Mai as an international hub and we are delighted to be taking this event back to Thailand. AOT did a fantastic job when they hosted in Pattaya previously and I’m sure this event will be every bit as enjoyable and successful as the last one.”

13.00 - Routes Asia handed over to Airports of Thailand!

11.30 - Boracay lessons are inspiring a renewed sustainable tourism push

 Lessons learned from the closure of Boracay is inspiring a renewed push for more responsible and sustainable tourism across the Philippines, according to a senior figure from the Philippine Department of Tourism.

Speaking during a panel discussion at Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu, Arturo P. Boncato Jr, the department’s undersecretary for tourism regulation, coordination and resource generation, explained that the national government is now focussed on rehabilitating other major destinations and promoting alternative sites.

“We are seeing to raise standards across the country through our new tourism framework,” he said. “We’re also investing a huge amount in branding the Philippines as a sustainable destination. A key component of this is engagement with the private sector.”

Boracay, known for its white-sand beaches, closed to visitors in April 2018 for six months following concerns about the impacts of tourism. The decision was announced by President Rodrigo Duterte after he dubbed the island a “cesspool”, condemning hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses, and accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea.

Since then, the island has undergone massive rehabilitation with billions of pesos invested in its infrastructure. Its carrying capacity has also been limited to 19,250 tourists at any one time so that resources do not become strained.

Boncato said that securing buy-in from all stakeholders - from the national government to hotels and bars - has been key. This has included low-cost airline Cebu Pacific, which launched a sustainable tourism programme called the ‘Juan Effect’.

Read the full story. 

10.00 - Brisbane celebrates awards success

RA+%28003%29After being named the Overall Winner at the Routes Asia 2019 Marketing Awards last night, Jim Parashos, head of aviation business development, said Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) has worked considerably hard over the past two years to develop the Brisbane market.

This has included securing new services from seven Asian airlines – Air China, Hainan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air, Philippine Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines and Thai AirAsia X, as well as increased frequency from Emirates (14 to 21 per week), Singapore Airlines (21 to 28 per week) and Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand.

“In July 2016 the Brisbane-Asia market was served with only 87 weekly flights, generating approximately 24,000 weekly one-way seats. In just three years this market will be served with 137 weekly frequencies, generating approximately 34,000 weekly one-way seats," he said. 

“Brisbane Airport’s aviation marketing strategy is sophisticated and analysis-driven, and this award is recognition for the creative partnership approach that BAC has implemented to deliver significant benefits for tourism, trade and travel while providing long-term sustainable commercial returns for airlines.”

09.00 - Join Melbourne Airport at World Routes in Adelaide

Heading to Adelaide? Don't forget to pop by the Routes stand and enter our competition for the chance to win a pair of BOSE headphones.

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08.00 - Day Three is underway!

Monday 11 March

21.30 - Entertainment from the TNT Boys!

21.00 - And the winner is...

Brisbane Airport (BNE) has been named the overall winner at the annual Routes Asia Marketing Awards after earlier winning the Over 20 Million Passengers category.

Australia’s most domestically connected hub and the third busiest airport by passenger numbers, the airport has two major terminals accommodating 35 airlines flying to 85 domestic and international destinations.

BNE is owned and operated by the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), which has committed billions of dollars of investment in the airport, including a new runway due to open in 2020.

The airport was recognised for taking a sophisticated analysis-driven and creative partnership approach to its marketing, including offering significant support for airlines’ growing capacity, frequency, or gauging aircraft and an event TV campaign featuring Catriona Rowntree, a well-known Australian TV host and travel reporter.

The annual Routes Asia Marketing Awards took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel, in the heart of the City of Cebu, Philippines.

Nominated and judged by airlines, the annual awards are highly regarded in the aviation industry for recognising the outstanding marketing services that have supported the launch of new air routes or the development of existing services.

Jim Parashos, head of aviation business development airline and retail management at Brisbane Airport, said: “It’s a long-burn process, but I think tonight is the culmination of two years of really hard work. 

“We’ve had seven new airlines during that time and up-gauges from existing carriers, which is equally important but often forgotten about. 

“We operate in a very competitive environment, not just in South East Queensland but the whole of Australia, so you have to continue to innovate and go above and beyond for your customers. We don’t do it for the awards, but this is fantastic recognition for what we’ve achieved.”

Winner of the Under 4 Million Passengers award was Sihanouk International Airport who were congratulated for creating an impressive number of new routes to Chinese cities, opening up their region of Cambodia to a new, and booming, travel market.

Growth at Sihanoukville Airport has been significant, going from under 100,000 passengers per annum in 2015 to over 650,000 in 2018. Traffic doubled each year in 2014, 2015, 2016 and last year’s growth on just missed the mark at 92.6 percent increase, going from 339,000 to 654,000 passengers.

Another Australian airport went home with an award after Perth Airport were named winner in the 4-20 Million Passengers category. After a fantastic year, the team at Perth Airport were commended for attracting new airlines and adding capacity to existing airlines.

Noticing a slow in growth from their local catchment area, the team turned their attention to focus on unserved inbound routes, including Tokyo Narita, London Heathrow and Hobart, Tasmania. The team also worked with airlines to increase capacity on existing routes from Singapore, Doha, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

Following in the success of Brisbane Airport, the destination award was won by the city’s Economic Development Board, Brisbane Marketing.

In 2018, Brisbane experienced record growth from international visitors with a 9.7 percent year on year increase in international visitors and 20.5 percent growth in overnight visitors. Brisbane Marketing had previously undertaken activity in New Zealand, China and South Korea, and these source markets lead the way with visitor numbers up 13 percent, 15.8 percent and 4.3 percent respectively.

Judges commended Brisbane Marketing on their cooperative approach as they partnered not only with the Brisbane Airport Corporation to secure and support their new routes, but further partnered with airlines to deliver supporting marketing activity, such as hosting a trade educational session and dinner in Shenzhen which Brisbane’s Lord Mayor attended to reiterate the support that Brisbane extends to Shenzhen as sister cities.

Brisbane Airport will go through to compete for the title of overall winner at the World Routes Marketing Awards which will take place in Adelaide on the 23 September.

Awards in summary:

Overall winner
Brisbane Airport

Over 20 Million Passengers
Winner: Brisbane Airport 
Highly Commended: Fukuoka Airport

4-20 Million Passengers 
Winner: Perth Airport
Highly Commended: Adelaide Airport

Under 4 Million Passengers 
Winner: Sihanouk International Airport 
Highly Commended: Langkawi International Airport

Winner: Brisbane Marketing 

19.00 - Networking Evening and Routes Asia Marketing Awards are underway!

16.00 - Routes Asia 2019 Marketing Awards

The Routes Asis 2019 Marketing Awards take place this evening. The awards recognise the impressive marketing support airports and tourism authorities provide to their airline partners. 

The finalists are as follows:

Under 4 Million Passengers
Coimbatore Airport
Hiroshima Airport
Langkawi International Airport
Sihanouk International Airport
U-Tapao Rayong-Pattaya International Airport

4-20 Million Passengers
Adelaide Airport 
Cam Ranh International Airport
Chubu Centrair International Airport
Christchurch Airport
Perth Airport 

Over 20 Million Passengers
Brisbane Airport
Fukuoka International Airport 
Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Melbourne Airport
Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Singapore Changi Airport

Beijing Municipal Bureau of Tourism
Brisbane Marketing
Chengdu Culture & Tourism Group
Gold Coast Tourism
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism

Read our profile of each of the shortlisted awards and destinations. Part one covers the Under 4 Million and 4-20 Million passenger categories, while part two features the finalists in the Over 20 Million and Destination awards

15.15 - Fast Track is underway

15.00 - Key quotes from the slot panel discussion

Stephen Milstrey, general manager for network planning and scheduling, HK Express: “More than 50 percent of our routes have a slot constrained airport at the other end, as well as being slot constrained in Hong Kong.”

“We have some really great slots at an airport this summer season, but we had to give half of them back because we couldn’t get the required slots on the Hong Kong side to make it work. It’s a huge problem to have.”

“We fly to a lot of secondary airports, but the issue we have is that they all have to start in Hong Kong.”

Philip Ireland, manager Worldwide Airport Slots, IATA: “Slots is a short-term solution for a lack of capacity. The biggest challenge we have is ensuring there is a global solution. With any route, there’s an airport at both ends. Right now there are a certain number of airports which are diverting and doing their own processes unilaterally. What we really need is a single consistent adoption of the Worldwide Slot Guidelines.”

“There are about 300 congested airports globally. Roughly 200 are the most congested, and half of those are in Europe. Asia has the strongest growth potential of any region in the world and so the challenge is not to follow in Europe’s footsteps. The challenge is to get capacity out there now and as fast as possible."

“52 percent of routes have departures from highly congested airports. What can we do about it? We need more capacity. In the short-term we need airports to look at how they can squeeze out more capacity."

14.15 - From Twitter

14.00 - Closer airline and tourist board cooperation needed, says Jetstar exec

Tourist boards need to work more closely with airlines to help sell the destinations they represent.

Speaking at Routes Asia 2019 in an on-stage interview, Jetstar executive manager commercial planning Alan McIntyre said getting good-quality, original content from the boards can help sway consumers' minds when they consider a destination.

He added: "What is the essence of this destination? That is what we want to hear from the tourist boards and we want to put it on our website."

McIntyre said airports also need to lend their support, particularly in the initial ramp up period. He said this can take the form of financial support and competitive ground handlers that understand an LCCs needs.

Similarly, governments need to resist the urge to raise taxes, a problem seen all over the world he admitted.

He added: "We are putting a very expensive asset into a market and we are stimulating that market. (They need to) encourage us to put assets into that market rather than another market."

13.30 - New Cebu terminal is a ‘symbol of confidence’

The new second terminal at Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) is “a physical symbol of confidence” in the market and in the destination.

Speaking to delegates at Routes Asia 2019, Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the terminal, which opened 11 months ahead of schedule, underscores the efforts being made to drive tourism and increase air connectivity to the Philippines.

“I am in agreement with our president Rodrigo Roa Duterte when he said that with its elegance and resort-like feel, the gateway dubbed as the only ‘Resort Airport in Asia’, is definitely the most beautiful airport in the country today,” she said.

“This new gateway connects Cebu not only to the entire Philippines but to the world. The MCIA is the reason why our visitors have better access to the pristine beaches and a whole lot of fun activities that Cebu has to offer.”

MCIA’s second terminal has a floor area of 65,000 sq m and is designed to increase the airport’s total handling capacity. Passenger capacity in the airport is expected to double from 4.5 million passengers a year to 12.2 million passengers a year.

Undersecretary for tourism development Benito Bengzon Jr added: “Beyond the nice wood, the glass, the concrete, the airport really is a physical symbol of confidence in the market and in the destination.

“It’s a physical symbol of the confidence of the aviation community, the travel trade, and what Cebu has to offer.”

13.00 - Ultra long-haul routes 'unlikely to be major trend'

Ultra long-haul routes are unlikely to become a major trend thanks to the lack of supporting markets.

Speaking at Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu on a panel debate concerning the future of aviation in Asia, Fiji Airways general manager network planning and strategy John Checketts said the recently launched Qantas flight from Perth to London will prove to be an exception, not a rule.

He added: "There's a limited number of markets where that can work with that non-stop long-haul service.

"Fiji is a limited destination and I don't see a large market where people will travel for 20 hours to get there."

Checketts added the problem was further compounded by the fact that the outbound market from the Pacific island is not big enough to make up the short fall.

Boeing regional director of network and fleet strategy Neil Hathni agreed, adding the only markets where they could work are the ones where the passengers are prepared to pay the premium demanded in return for the convenience of a one-stop flight.

Meanwhile, all the panelists agreed LCCs would have a tough time breaking into the long-haul market as conditions in Asia remain the same as in the rest of the world.

VietJetAir deputy director commercial strategy and planning Jay L Lingeswara said once you get to a flight lasting ten or more hours, comfort becomes an issue and travellers are prepared to pay $100 extra to ensure they get it on a legacy carrier.

Checketts added the decision by legacy carriers to unbundle their product so creating new options like basic economy has also made life harder for LCCs.

He said: "This was a brilliant move by the legacy carriers. LCCs are going to have a much more difficult time taking share."

Civil Aeronautics Board executive director Carmelo Arcilla added with fuel costs being a greater issue in the long haul sector, any rises in the price would again impact LCC competition more than their legacy rivals.

12.15 - More than 830 hours of meetings taking place!

11.30 - How HK Express is rising to the challenge 

 Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier HK Express' Stephen Milstrey speaks to Routesonline about the challenges of building a route network from one of the most slot-constrained airports in the world. He also explains why destinations need to change their thinking when it comes to airline incentive programmes. 

Hong Kong-based HK Express only celebrated its fifth anniversary of being a low-cost carrier last October, but has already clocked up carrying more than 14 million passengers. It expects to hit the 15 million milestone by the end of March 2019.

Much of the airline’s strategy so far has focused on growing outbound Hong Kong travel to Japan and South Korea, with the two destinations accounting for about 55 percent and 14 percent respectively of its total seat capacity.

Stephen Milstrey, general manager for network planning and scheduling and a speaker at Routes Asia 2019, says the major markets in Japan continue to be “very strong” as the carrier is able to attract a lot of repeat traffic.

HK Express’ latest route to Japan will offer the first direct service between Hong Kong and Shimojishima, a holiday destination that forms part of the Miyako Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. It will start on 19 July 2019 and operate three times per week.

Milstrey says that decision-makers in Japan are increasingly alive to the economic benefits that LCCs can create for smaller destinations - and are therefore more receptive to helping airlines reduce the risks involved in launching a new route.

“The airports and regional governments in Japan are beginning to really understand the high risk associated with launching service to an unserved city and are becoming more creative with new ways of helping to mitigate that risk, so we are constantly on the prowl for new opportunities there,” he explains.

Stephen MilstreyHear from HK Express' Stephen Milstrey at 14.00 today. He will be taking part in a panel discussion on slot availability alongside the likes of Philip Ireland, manager worldwide airport slots at IATA, and Virgin Australia's Russell Shaw. 

See the full Conference Programme

HK Express currently operates 11 routes to Japan, including Tokyo-Haneda and Narita, Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Takamatsu. In 2018, it deployed more capacity on Hong Kong - Osaka Kansai than any other route in its network.

Milstrey says that the carrier does not plan to launch any long-haul services in the near future - as its stage length would have to more than double to in excess of ten hours to get to most high-demand destinations - but it is evaluating new opportunities in Southeast Asia in order to better balance its network.

Read more on this story

11.15 - From Airlineroute today

Malaysia Airlines expands Etihad codeshare to Europe in 1Q
ANA adds 787-10 Singapore service from late-April 2019
Vietjet Air adds Ho Chi Minh City – Tokyo service from July 2019

11.00 - See all the images from Cebu!

Our Facebook gallery features some of the best images from Routes Asia 2019 so far.

10.45 - Interview: Fast-growing Bengaluru ready for next chapter

Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport continues to grow rapidly, with new routes to London, Singapore and Bangkok launched over the past 12 months. Raveen Pinto, the airport’s vice president of business development, spoke Routesonline about the expansion of its network, which geographical locations it is targeting and the overall picture of India’s aviation industry. 

"The aviation sector in India is one of the most difficult place to do business for airlines and is probably the only region where, despite growth in traffic at a CAGR of 20 percent YoY, airlines are losing money. In FY2018-19, airlines in India will collectively declare a loss of about $1.5bn," says Pinto.

"There are multiple factors that lead to such a situation – including but not limited to – rapid capacity induction by Indian carriers leading to downward pressure on fares, infrastructure challenges related to airspace congestion, non-availability of slots at peak hours, higher taxation structures compared to their foreign counterparts, etc.

"The recent rise in fuel prices, coupled with the depreciation of the rupee, also did not help the cause of the airlines making the industry go through difficult times.  

"Having said that, there is enormous potential for the aviation industry as more people are taking to the skies amid rising incomes and the sector's expansion. Due to the surge in passenger volumes, growing demand for air travel and increased scope of building regional connectivity, strong growth can be anticipated even in the coming years.

"With the development of world-class airport infrastructure and policies focused on cost and passenger interest, India would be well placed to achieve its vision of becoming the third-largest aviation market by 2025."

10.00 - HK Express ready for Adelaide! 

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Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier, HK Express, had a very busy first day at Routes Asia. It has confirmed their attendance at World Routes 2019. Will you be heading down under for our 25th birthday?

09.30 - Watch the highlights from Day One!

09.00 - Philippine Airlines maps out future network plans

Seattle, Chicago, Paris and Rome are all on the radar for future routes operated by Philippine Airlines.

Speaking at Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu, the airline's vice president sales Ryan Uy said should they be given the go ahead, the new routes would be on a non-stop basis.

Nor are North America and Europe the only regions under consideration, in India the numbers are being crunched for New Delhi and Mumbai while frequencies to many other destinations could be increased.

But Uy added: "Asia is our key market so we are looking at routes from north Asia, south west Asia by increasing frequencies and introducing new routes."

He said this could mean increased frequencies on Philippine's routs to Beijing, Shanghai, Quanzhou and Chengdu in China while elsewhere he is keen to grow the current routes to Jakarta and Malaysia.

Uy said such growth would complement confirmed frequency increases to Bangkok, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, with the overall seat numbers set to grow by 30 percent in 2019.

He also confirmed the airline is continuing to consider joining an alliance and spelt out to the audience the benefits available at each, although he refused to confirm his personal preference.

Uy said: "Alliances work very well if you are not overlapping with everyone. Star Alliance is big but if you see the members there's a lot of overlaps there.

"oneworld tends to look at the strongest carrier for each general location while Skyteam has the least overlaps.

"Right now Philippine Airlines is obviously keen and we'd like to enter into an alliance but we're not in a rush, we are taking our time. We know with alliances you have to be invited and you need to have a sponsor to be a part of them."

Read more on this story

08.00 - A quick chat with... Jay L Lingeswara

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Jay L Lingeswara, deputy director at VietJet Air. Love to do what I do best. Leading the strategy and planning management team, to ensure VietJet Air effectively deliver on huge and often transformational projects.

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

Proud to lead such a great team at VietJet Air. Working closely with the airline’s executive team. Enjoy helping my colleagues by getting them to focus on developing their many different skill sets as opposed to only focusing on the job in hand. As far as I am concerned, there are no worst parts of the job, but that is not to say there aren’t any challenges. Fortune favours the brave.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities at the moment?

Managing growth and costs effectively is a real balancing act, as is ensuring the airline always has the perfect combo of services and resources. However, I expect these are challenges shared by anyone working in airline industry.

VietJet Air is lucky to have both strong inbound and outbound markets, with both boasting rapid growth. Our inbound market is twice as big as the outbound, although the latter has nearly doubled in size in the past two years. 2019 is off to a great start along with our incredible people and brand!

Which travel destination is on your bucket list?

Long list, chosen one will be Switzerland (to be specific Grindelwald!)

What has been your favourite Routes event? 

2017 in Barcelona, Catalonia. Great city and I truly enjoyed the event!

Jay L Lingeswara will be taking part in the Conference Programme at Routes Asia 2019. Hear his views on the future of air transportation in Asia Pacific, and how tourism authorities, airlines and airports can work together to make a destination more attractive. 

See the full Conference Programme

Sunday 10 March

20.00 -  Spectacular end to Day One!

18.30 - The Welcome Reception is underway!

17.00 - Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302

Everyone at Routes would like to express their deepest condolences in relation to the incident involving Ethiopian Airlines’ flight ET302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. Our thoughts are with those directly affected and those within the wider route development community.

16.00 - Cebu Pacific to expand from Cebu and Clark hubs

Philippines-based carrier Cebu Pacific is set to expand its route network from its hubs at Cebu and Clark this year on the back of increasing demand from tourists for more direct connections.

Speaking at Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu, chief operations officer Michael Ivan Shau announced that the carrier will launch three new domestic routes from the Clark International Airport.

The airline will mount daily flights between its hubs in Clark and Iloilo; as well as between Clark and Bacolod, starting 9 August 2019. Beginning 9 October 2019, it will also start daily flights between Clark and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

“There’s still a lot of opportunity for expansion within the Philippines - inter-island connections from key cities like Clark and Cebu. We believe that there is a significant untapped market in northern provinces in the Philippines," Shau said. 

"Creating direct links between domestic destinations and our other hubs will spur tourism and movement of goods and investments, whilst doing away with having to pass through the main hub in Manila." 

Clark International Airport has served as the hub for north and central Luzon of Cebu Pacific for the past ten years. It has emerged as one of Asia’s fastest-growing airports, with passenger volume breaching 2.5 million in 2018.

Over the past six months, the airline has boosted frequency in Clark by more than 75 percent, with direct connections to Cebu, Caticlan (Boracay), Tagbilaran, Davao, Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong.

“We are also in the final stages of launching a new route between Cebu and mainland China. We’ll have more details on that soon,” added Shau.

Cebu Pacific had earlier stated it would ramp-up capacity in its Cebu hub by as much as 20 percent in 2019. Routes in development for its Cebu hub are focused on North Asia markets such as China, Korea, and Japan.

Read more on this story.

14.30 - Philippines continues drive to improve airports

The Philippines has undertaken a radical transformation of its airports as the country seeks to drive mobility.

Speaking at Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu, the country's department of transportation assistant secretary Mark Steven Pastor said the government had teamed up with the private sector to transform its airports.

He added since 2016, 18 airport improvement projects had been completed with a further 26 ongoing while one project is still to start.

Pastor said the work was vital to make sure the Philippines could handle both present and future demands for the ever-growing aviation sector.

He added: "Aviation is about pushing the limits of what is possible from its earliest days. In building airports we are building platforms for mobility and we had a number of airports festering in a flat state."

Pastor said the work had helped drive improvements in everything from punctuality to the actual experience of passing through an airport.

He argued the process should be further driven by the country's decision to host Routes Asia in Cebu, three years after the capital Manila hosted the same event.

Pastor said: "Routes is a great way to connect airport connectivity, especially in tourism markets, and to create meaningful relationships."

13.50 - Face-to-Face Meetings set to start

13.20 - Routes Asia to build on Manila success

Philippine secretary of tourism

The Philippine Department of Tourism's secretary of tourism Bernadette Fatima Romulo-Puyat welcomed delegates to Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu, saying the event will be a springboard to attracting new air services. 

She explained that the Philippines recorded 7.1 million arrivals in 2018, representing growth of 7.65 percent. "But we can only aim higher and dream bigger," Romulo-Puyat added. 

"Philippine travel and tourism has been robust and on the uptrend since the country hosted the conference in 2016 in Manila, providing the much-needed impetus for route expansion to major points in Asia and the rest of the world."

The secretary of tourism stressed that Mactan-Cebu's infrastructure developments mean it is now a "gateway that connects Cebu to the world". 

12.45 - Fastest-growing passenger routes in Asia revealed

The ten fastest-growing major passenger routes in the Asia-Pacific region have been revealed in an exclusive study published by Routesonline, with a flight between South Korea’s capital city Seoul and a coastal city in central Vietnam taking the top spot. The research has been released as delegates gather today for Routes Asia 2019.

A 71 percent rise in the number of passengers flying between Seoul’s Incheon International Airport and Da Nang International Airport has placed the route as the fastest-growing in the Asia-Pacific region.

More than 2.2 million passengers took a flight between the two destinations, which links South Korea’s capital and the largest city in central Vietnam, compared with 1.29 million just 12 months earlier. The growth is enough to place the route at number one in the rankings, comfortably ahead of Manila (MNL) - Iloilo (ILO) in second.

Routesonline’s research found the top 100 passenger routes to/from and within the Asia-Pacific region during 2018 using the latest data provided by Sabre Market Intelligence. The list was then ranked by percentage annual growth when compared with the same period in 2017.

Read the full story.

12.45 - From the tours

Routes Asia 2019 delegates kicked off the event on the Saturday by taking one of the three complementary tours in and around Cebu.

Laid on by the hosts, the Philippine department of tourism, the tours consisted of two half day tours of the city itself, exploring its history and culture while day long visits to some of the region’s best beaches were also available with an island hopping safari.

Meanwhile, the Bohol countryside tour allowed delegates to find out more about the region’s local flora and fauna, including the famous Chocolate Hills.


12.30 - Diary Advice and Exhibition Halls are now open!

12.00 - See you in Adelaide!

11.30 - Visit the Routes stand

11.00 - Welcome from our Host

Host Letter Headshot square.jpgThe Philippine Department of Tourism's secretary of tourism Bernadette Fatima Romulo-Puyat welcomes delegates to this year's Routes Asia.

"We are extremely honoured and excited to host Routes Asia 2019, the largest and most important route development event in the region.

"To all delegates, our warmest welcome to Cebu, the “Queen City of the South”. We are delighted to have you arrive through the new terminal of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), dubbed as the only “Resort Airport in Asia”.

"This event complements our National Tourism Development Plan’s (NTDP) strategy to improve air connectivity with major tourist source markets in Asia, Europe and North America.

"As the Philippines relies heavily on air travel, Routes Asia 2019 affords us unparalleled opportunities to meet with air carriers and discuss what Cebu and our other international gateways can offer.

"This marks another milestone for our route development programme, as we host this event for the second time. Philippine travel and tourism has been robust and on the uptrend since the country hosted the conference in 2016 in Manila, providing the much-needed impetus for route expansion to major points in Asia and the rest of the world.

"With this year’s Routes Asia, we eagerly anticipate more opportunities to further enhance access to the Philippines to strengthen its bid as a must-experience destination in Asia."

10.30 - Cebu to build on Manila success

Speaking at the press conference this morning, Routes' brand director Steven Small said:  "New routes bring massive economic benefits – they create jobs, connect businesses and help to boost tourism.

"As a consequence, the bidding process to host an event is extremely competitive. After successfully delivering Routes Asia 2016 in Manila, the Philippine Department of Tourism saw a remarkable increase in international passenger traffic.

"We are delighted to be uniting the region’s route development community in the Philippines once more, here in Cebu.

"The recent infrastructure developments at Mactan-Cebu International Airport demonstrate the destination’s dedication to improving air connectivity.

"Many of you will have seen the airport’s new wood-build terminal, a sustainable initiative which will contribute towards its goal of accommodating eight million passengers per year.  

"This year’s event welcomes a record number of airline companies, and delegates will have the opportunity to make even more introductions with their industry peers during face-to-face meetings and networking events.

"We are confident that hosting Routes Asia 2019 will fuel further growth here in Cebu and help our hosts to achieve their goals."

10.00 - Press conference underway

A press conference to mark the launch of Routes Asia 2019 is now underway!

09.00 - 1,000 delegates expected for Routes Asia 2019

The 17th annual Routes Asia forum starts today, allowing airports in the Asia-Pacific region to meet with key airline decision makers, to develop existing relationships and forge new connections with some of the most influential aviation professionals in the world, while discovering the wider area’s beauty and business potential.

Having recently opened a new terminal that has increased overall passenger capacity to 12.5 million, Mactan-Cebu International Airport is already targeting further expansion, with ambitions to grow capacity to 35 million passengers per year to 2025.

Erwin Balane, head of route development for The Philippine Department of Tourism, said: “Hosting Routes Asia gives us the opportunity to encourage carriers to consider the international gateways of the Philippines.

“We will be able to raise our profile in the Asian aviation community and demonstrate that the Philippines is a multi-gateway destination, where aviation infrastructures are in place and international airports are compliant with international aviation standards.

“By promoting the Philippines to leading carriers in Asia, we will continue to improve air connectivity from major tourist source markets to the Philippines.”

Hosting Routes Asia has proven to be a successful tactic for the Philippine Department of Tourism. Having previously hosted the event in Manilla in 2016, what followed was significant spike in international air seats to the Philippines from new international air routes.

According to OAG figures, new international air seats to the Philippines grew by 4.5 million in 2017, and by another 1.79 million in 2018, going from 30 million to 36.3 million since 2016 – an increase of over 20 percent.

Steven Small, brand director of Routes, said: “The Philippines has seen fantastic growth in the last few years’. In hosting Routes Asia 2019, the City of Cebu is perfectly placed to welcome more air connectivity by showcasing its growing economy and impressive new airport infrastructure to the region’s key decision makers.  
“We look forward to welcoming the route development connectivity to Cebu and we are sure that they will have a productive and enjoyable time discovering that ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’."

Saturday 9 March 

17.00 - Welcome from Steven Small

15.00 - Download the app!

13.00 - Interview: Cebu seeks new international connections

Fresh from opening a new terminal that has increased overall passenger capacity to 12.5 million, Mactan-Cebu International Airport is already targeting further expansion. Erwin Balane, head of route development for The Philippine Department of Tourism, tells Routesonline about its ambitions of growing capacity to 35 million passengers per year by 2025.

What are the opportunities available for Cebu and the region?

"Cebu is developing into a major regional hub. This must, in good measure, be a consequence of the geography of this island province, being at the center of the whole archipelago covering the south and central Philippines as its catchment area with nearly 40 million people.

"To maximise its growth momentum, it has to be promoted to Asian carriers due to growing demand for leisure travel. For the last three years, passenger traffic to Cebu is growing by leaps and bounds. From 7.77 million in 2015 to 9.59 million in 2017 for an average growth of 11.13 percent per year. This extraordinary growth of passenger traffic can be attributed to a number of new international air routes from China, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, United Arab Emirates and the US. "

"As of September 2018, total two-way passenger traffic to Cebu reached 7.77 million for an increase of 7.93 percent compared to the nine-month period in 2017. Likewise, the new passenger terminal building at Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) was completed in June 2018 thereby expanding its capacity from the current six million to 12 million passengers per annum.

"In addition, GMR-Megawide has tendered its offer to the government to build a second parallel runway at MCIA at a cost of Php200 billion to maximise its potential as the largest international passenger airport south of Manila and increasing its capacity to 35 million passengers per year by 2025. The proponent is optimistic that the growing demand for leisure travel to Cebu will spur the growth and sustain passenger traffic to the island."

11.00 - Top tip

10.00 - A warm welcome awaits

09.00 - The countdown is on!

why cebu page imageRoutes Asia gets underway in Cebu tomorrow (10 March 2019), bringing together airlines, airports and tourism authorities from across the region to discuss and develop air route networks. 

The event's delegates will take part in more than 2,500 face-to-face meetings to discuss new and existing air services. Are you among the attendees?

Share your journey to Cebu on Twitter using the #RoutesAsia hashtag and on the Routes app