Air­port trans­fers and tourism

Business World - - OPINION - BIENVENIDO S. OPLAS, JR. is the head of Min­i­mal Gov­ern­ment Thinkers, a mem­berin­sti­tute of EFN-Asia. min­i­mal­go­v­ern­ment@gmail.com

Is there a con­nec­tion be­tween tourism and the travel time to and from the in­ter­na­tional air­port and the city proper?

I asked my­self this ques­tion while I was read­ing Eva Air’s in­flight mag­a­zine en route to Hous­ton, Texas.

I spent a to­tal of 17 hours trav­el­ing — two hours from Manila to Tai­wan, a lay­over of one hour, and an­other 14 hours from Tai­wan to Hous­ton.

The good news is that all three air­ports men­tioned have free Wi-Fi, es­pe­cially in Tai­wan, which of­fers fast In­ter­net con­nec­tions with­out re­quir­ing reg­is­tra­tions. The bad news is that free Wi-Fi does not reach some gates at the NAIA.

I paid a visit to Hous­ton to at­tend the “Amer­ica First En­ergy Con­fer­ence,” set for Nov. 9 at JW Mar­riott Hous­ton, spon­sored by the Heart­land In­sti­tute, which also pro­vided me a travel schol­ar­ship.

The air­line’s En Voy­age in­flight mag­a­zine has one ta­ble that shows the list of the global air­ports they serve, dis­tance from air­port to down­town, the es­ti­mated travel time by train, bus and car/taxi (C), and cost in lo­cal cur­ren­cies. I re­con­structed the ta­ble and chose only ma­jor cities in East Asia, com­puted the av­er­age speed by car/ taxi travel, then added data on each coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional tourist ar­rivals and tourism re­ceipts in 2016 (see ta­ble).

From the above num­bers, these pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis would show:

1. Economies that have quick and con­ve­nient trans­port sys­tems be­tween their air­ports and city cen­ters have higher tourism ar­rivals, even if their air­ports are far away from the cities. These ex­am­ples in­clude: China, Hong Kong, Ja­pan, Malaysia, Thai­land, South Korea, and Sin­ga­pore.

2. Air­ports near their city cen­ters have fewer vis­i­tors, if trans­port sys­tems be­tween lo­ca­tions are slow. These ex­am­ples in­clude: Vietnam (es­pe­cially Ho Chi Minh air­port) and Philip­pines, both NAIA/ Manila and Mac­tan-Cebu air­ports.

There are many fac­tors of course why some coun­tries have very high tourist ar­rivals while oth­ers have fewer vis­i­tors. These fac­tors are con­ve­nience of the air­port it­self, over­all peace and or­der sit­u­a­tion of the coun­try, dom­i­nance of the rule of law, prox­im­ity of that city/ coun­try to other im­por­tant tourism ar­eas in other cities and coun­tries.

If one lands in Bangkok, one can go to Cam­bo­dia, Laos, and Vietnam by land, with­out the need to take other flights.

Pre­lim­i­nary data show that yes, there seems to have a pos­i­tive con­nec­tion or cor­re­la­tion be­tween fast air­port trans­fer and tourism ar­rivals.

The data on Manila air­port is a bit out­dated be­cause ( 1) there are now con­ve­nient and fast bus trans­portaion from NAIA/ Manila air­port to city cen­ters of Makati City, Pasay City, and Manila and vice-versa, and ( b) newly opened NAIA Ex­press­way ( PPP project by San Miguel) has sig­nif­i­cantly cut the travel time by car from the air­port’s three ter­mi­nals to city cen­ters.

Some im­pli­ca­tions for the Philip­pines and its in­fras­truc­ture and tourism poli­cies.

One, NAIAEx toll­way is do­ing good and should con­trib­ute to at­tract­ing more vis­i­tors into the coun­try; thus, fur­ther ex­ten­sion of this toll­way to BGC and other ar­eas as planned by the project pro­po­nents and O&M op­er­a­tors should be fa­cil­i­tated by the gov­ern­ment and not sub­jected to var­i­ous cum­ber­some and costly reg­u­la­tions and per­mit­ting pro­ce­dures.

Two, mov­ing the Philip­pine in­ter­na­tional air­port to a far­ther but big­ger space (Clark in Pam­panga, or San­g­ley Point in Cavite, or cur­rently rice lands in Bu­la­can, etc.) com­ple­mented by fast train and/or buses to city cen­ters will be a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

Three, al­low more in­te­grated PPP ( builders and O&M op­er­a­tion func­tions are as­signed to only one win­ning bid player or con­sor­tium of play­ers) for big, new air­ports, not hy­brid PPP.

BIENVENIDO S. OPLAS, JR. Quick air­port trans­fers usu­ally re­sult in a higher num­ber of tourist ar­rivals.

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