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PAL upbeat on Manila-Auckland route

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — With New Zealand’s tourism industry enjoying exceptional growth, Asia’s oldest carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is upbeat about the sustainable success of its Manila-Auckland route as it sees average passenger load factor growing to 80 percent by the end of the year.

PAL currently operates four weekly flights to New Zealand via Cairns, Australia, using a 156-seat Airbus A320, which departs from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

According to PAL regional manager for New Zealand Ma. Divinagracia Virata, the airline expects to increase the load factor or the number of seats filled   on its fairly new Auckland route by five points from the current 75 percent with interest in New Zealand hitting record levels.

Auckland is the most visited destination in New Zealand, accounting for about 72 percent of total visitors.

There are now more than 40,000 Filipinos living or working in New Zealand and this figure is forecast to double by 2020,  Virata said.

“Traffic is picking up pace. Filipinos have a very good reputation.  The New Zealand embassy has been lenient in granting tourist visas,” she said.

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What makes New Zealand an interesting place for Filipinos is the huge demand for skilled Filipino workers especially in the construction sector.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency showed New Zealand has seen a growing trend in the number of deployed Filipino workers.

In 2014, deployment of Filipinos to New Zealand reached 3,068 or an increase of 29 percent from the previous year.

After working in  New Zealand for just three years, Filipinos can  easily apply for permanent residency, Virata said.

“Many of the Filipinos working in New Zealand are inclined to apply for permanent residency and bring their families here,” she said.

She said the Philipines, nevertheless, was beginning to see some headway in attracting tourists from New Zealand.

“We are slowly penetrating the Kiwis, who see the Philippines as an emerging destination. So it is exciting for us to promote it,” Virata said.

She said the tourism department was  positioning the Southeast Asian nation as a diving destination with the aim of increasing the number of New Zealand tourists to the Philippines by 30 percent.

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