Published September 30, 2018, 12:21 AM

by Roel Tibay

By AA Patawaran

It’s a great time to fly, but not without all the challenges. As the world began to clamor more for experience, travel has now made it to the top of the dream list of “how one should spend one’s money,” going so high up on the list as to edge out the dream of owning a house or a car or pouring money into investments.

SOARING TO NEW HEIGHTS – With new additions to their fleets, local airlines are beefing up their foreign and domestic flights. (Ali Vicoy/ MANILA BULLETIN)
SOARING TO NEW HEIGHTS – With new additions to their fleets, local airlines are beefing up their foreign and domestic flights. (Ali Vicoy/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The UN World Tourism Organization reports that more than 1.2 billion people made an international trip in 2015—and the Philippines, according to a study culled by Visa from this report, was found to be one of the countries in the Asia Pacific with the most number of international travelers in the same year.

The surge in travel spending is attributed to three factors, one of which is growing income levels around the world. In the Philippines, an increase in take-home pay among 99 percent of Filipino workers, due to lower tax rates under the TRAIN law, translates to more money that is increasingly being spent on lifestyle, fitness, entertainment, and travel.

The other two factors that are driving tourism spending are increased connectivity on account of globalization and technology, not to mention the projected construction of more than 340 new airports around the world over the next decade, and global aging, which accounts for more travelers aged 65 and up affording bigger trips and spending money less sparingly on comfort and entertainment. Attributed to this third factor is the so-called “medical tourism,” an industry that a 2016 study by Orbis Research values at $19.7 billion and, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 18.8 percent, it is expected to reach $46.6 billion by 2021.

Given all these developments, the airline industry is on a winning streak, though it is confronted with challenges more serious than ever, such as climate change, terrorism and other threats, the fluctuating cost of fuel (and the loud calls for renewable energy), sluggish GDP growth, falling ticket prices, and the persistent demand for air travel that is outpacing the development of infrastructure, such as runways and airports and digitization, needed to accommodate it.

Still, airlines are going up and away, overall: 79 new airlines took to the sky in 2017 while only 25 were run to the ground and out of business, according to the website ANNA or Airline Network News & Analysis, which also reported that, in the same year, airlines launched more than 3,500 routes.

In the Philippines, the airline industry is a booming business, with an international market that has more than doubled over the past 10 years, rising to 24.4 million passengers last year from only 11.5 million in 2007. Also, in 2017, international passenger traffic to and from the Philippines grew by 12 percent, the third time in three consecutive years that the industry experienced double-digit growth — 11 percent in 2015 and 10 percent a year later.

In this issue, the Manila Bulletin takes to the sky, over 30,000 feet high, to see how our local airlines are responding to the call of the times.

Other than the emergence of the Philippines as an attractive destination with more and more of the world intrigued by our food, our culture, our people, our history and heritage, and our geographical riches, the greatest opportunity of all, indeed, is that now more Filipinos are looking outward, as far into the distant corners of the planet as they could reach, and spending their money, whether on budget or in luxury, to get there.