The new chartered flights follow the amendment of the 1992 RP-Russia Air Services (ASA), to allow all Russian carriers to unlimited flight frequencies from any 3 points in Russia to 3 points in the Philippines, namely Manila, Clark, and another destination (such as Cebu, Davao, Iloilo) and vice-versa. Under the old 1992 ASA, RP and a designated Russian air carrier had one flight per week, via Manila-Moscow route.
The said bilateral air services agreement had been previously endorsed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Tourism Secretary Ace Durano to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in June 2009 during President Arroyo's attendance at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
"We have intensively campaigned to open the Philippine skies further to address the influx of Russian tourists. We can certainly look forward to a bright year ahead for this market,” said Durano.
The tourism chief likewise believed that previous efforts such as the salvos of familiarization tours, and travel trade missions have more than captured the market, but have also given rise to a close strong business portfolio for the country.
“With the long winter coming, we expect more tourists trooping to our tropical beaches. And we also see a rise in leisure destinations, as more than 80 percent of Russians come from the high-end market,” said Eduardo Jarque Jr., Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions.
Jarque further said that previous deliberations with the market have prompted three big Russian travel wholesalers, South Cross, Paks, and Capital Tours to launch packages to Cebu, Bohol, Palawan and Boracay, “We are expecting the arrival of several major tour groups from these operators next year.”
Capital Tours is considered the largest travel wholesaler in Russia; while Paks is a specialist travel agency targeting long-haul travelers and South Cross a multi-destination tour operator.
The DOT had recently hosted Capital Tours’ first Director’s Tour Program, the highlight of which was the company’s launch of Philippine tour packages. Inna Beltyukova, Capital Tours General Director said, “Your pristine beaches and sunny tropical climate are very ideal to our tourists.”
One of the longest-staying and high-spending markets, the Russians are high up in the list of DOT’s arrivals.
The ASA pact, which is “set to facilitate and intensify two-way tourism, trade and investment, and cultural exchanges through the opening of direct flights between the Philippines and Russia,” was formally signed last December 1, 2009, with Deputy Minister for Transport Valeriy Mikhailovich Okulov representing the Russian government.
The number of flights and the approval of fifth-freedom air rights, which indicates the right of the carrier to pick up passengers from a third country before proceeding to its destination, rest on the agreement between the civil aviation authorities of the two countries.