THE Tourism department said Thursday it had clinched a deal that would further open Central Visayas to Japanese tourists.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said she signed the deal allowing Vanilla Air to mount direct flights between Narita and Cebu in a meeting held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Vanila Air is the first Japanese carrier to fly directly from Tokyo to a destination outside Manila.
“We are elated over Vanilla Air’s report that all seats on the Narita-Cebu flight are all sold out long before its launching on December 25, 2016,” Teo told Vanilla Air president Katsuya Goto in a meeting during the last day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s working visit to Tokyo.
“The entry of this first Japanese airline to provide nonstop services to Cebu is a welcome development since it has been branded as the vacation destination of Japanese tourists.
“The new route would fulfill President Rodrigo Duterte’s vision to bring economic growth and development to the Visayas by establishing Cebu as a major international gateway.”
Teo also proposed to the low-cost Japanese carrier to explore the possibility of a Tokyo-Davao route via Cebu.
“With Davao considered as little Tokyo, Vanilla Air is assured that consumer interest would be huge,” she said.
Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr., who represents the tourism chief at the Civil Aviation Board, assured Katsuya that he would help expedite Vanilla Air’s Foreign Carriers Air Permit, a prerequisite for all international air carriers planning to operate on a new route in a foreign country.
Vanilla Air will be competing with Philippine Airlines between Cebu and Narita beginning Dec. 25, 2016.
PAL operates two round-trip flights daily while Cebu Pacific flies four round-trip flights a week.
The Tokyo (Narita)-Cebu route will have a market launch at the Shinjuku train station, which is known for having the busiest foot traffic in Tokyo.
The Tourism Department’s Tokyo Office will also host a media and blogger familiarization trip to Cebu in February 2017.