REBUILDING TOURISM. Philippines AirAsia chief finance officer Ray Berja (left to right), chief executive officer Ricky Isla, and Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu president Alfred Reyes on Friday (June 25, 2021) signed a memorandum of agreement in their efforts to revitalize the tourism sector and economy of the island province. Under the agreement, the Malaysian carrier will become the official airline partner of HRRAC’s hotel members. (PNA photo by Carlo Lorenciana)

CEBU CITY - Philippines AirAsia has inked a partnership with the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) to help boost tourism and economic recovery in Cebu.

“Tourism stakeholders including AirAsia are united with stakeholders such as the HRRAC, the Department of Tourism and the local government unit in rebooting the tourism industry in Cebu, a vital industry that contributes to the Philippine economy,” Ricky Isla, chief executive officer of the Malaysian airline’s Philippine unit, said during the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signing with HRRAC late Friday afternoon.

The agreement makes AirAsia the official airline partner of HRRAC, a non-profit, non-government organization that provides an avenue for strategic partnerships among its member companies and other stakeholders with the common goal of promoting Cebu as a world-class tourist destination.

Isla said their partnership with Cebu’s hospitality sector is aimed at promoting safe domestic travel in Cebu, which continues to thrive through its self-sustaining tourism industry.

It is also a preparation for a strong post-pandemic rebound in the tourism industry.

“But in order to do this, we must offer travelers not just sights but also added value to their money. It is through partnership like this, that we are able to give exciting options and promos for our guests and Cebuanos, who are excited to be rediscovering Cebu as the global health situation is improving,” Isla said.

He added that the airline company is looking to “continue to innovate to provide the best travel experiences” to the public post-pandemic.

“We would like to thank HRRAC for this partnership as we are both set to revitalize the tourism sector and the economy of the province,” he said.

The airline executive said Cebu, being one of the top tourist destinations in the country, is a natural choice for the company’s tourism revival efforts.

“Cebu is more than just cultural heritage. Cebu is so rich and marketable. It is a representation of the Philippines’ diverse cultures,” Isla said.

AirAsia bared potential partnership opportunities for HRRAC stakeholders such as a-Access, an incentive card for both airlines airline guests and non-guests granting access to exclusive offers from a wide selection of partner establishments across key destinations in the country including Cebu.

HRRAC, meanwhile, expressed its appreciation for the partner and efforts taken by AirAsia in rebuilding confidence in tourism and air travel, which is crucial in the hotel business.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated to the tourism industry that trust, partnership, and solidarity are essential for revitalizing travel as we anticipate the reopening of borders,” HRRAC president Alfred Reyes, general manager of bai Hotel Cebu, also said during the MOA signing.

Through the partnership, he said the hotel players in Cebu are excited and are passionate about innovating through collaboration and technology and “see the way people book and experience travel.”

“This inked initiative between AirAsia and HRRAC has a wide impact in terms of our industry partners to find solutions and stimulate demand and largely help the struggling travel and tourism industry,” the hotelier said.
With the collaboration, Reyes noted that hotels in Cebu have put a premium on convenience and value to the customers, which have become ever important during this pandemic.

“HRRAC together with AirAsia is determined to achieve one goal — and that is to rebuild tourism,” he said.

Reyes said Cebu continues to see an increasing number of domestic tourists visiting the island, since tourism was opened last year.

Isla also bared that part of the second phase of their partnership is to revive the meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) industry in Cebu, as they look forward to big events coming back to Cebu again.

Cebu has been among the top choices for MICE events in the country pre-pandemic, hosting some of the biggest global conventions and exhibitions.
“We aim to bring back the strong image of Philippines as a MICE destination,” he said.

The MOA signing between AirAsia and HRRAC was made possible by Cebu City Tourism Commission and chairperson Joy Pesquera, Lapu-Lapu City Tourism, Cultural, and Historical Commission and chairman Cindi King-Chan, Department of Tourism-7 and regional director Shalimar Tamano, Cebu Association of Tour Guides president Grace Melendres, and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. (PNA)