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Philippine tourism sector hit by European air ban

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A European Commission ruling that Philippine airlines are unsafe has dealt a major blow to the tourism sector, the Southeast Asian nation’s tourism minister said in comments published Friday.

Tour packages from Europe are being cancelled even though no Philippine carrier flies to Europe, Joseph Durano said, according to Business Mirror’s and ABS-CBN television network’s websites. “Major European travel operators from Germany, the UK and France have regretfully informed us of their booking cancellations. The entire industry is affected,” Durano said.

The European Commission banned from April 1 all Philippine carriers from flying to the 27-nation bloc due to concerns about local aviation safety standards. Philippine carriers have not been flying to EU member-states since 1999. However, the EU ban prompted European insurance companies to advise travel operators that packages to the Philippines — which include inter-island air travel — will not be covered by travel insurance.

Many tour groups scheduled from April to August have been cancelled while other bookings are on hold to see if the European Union will maintain its ban on the Philippines after an inspection scheduled in May. “The longer we remain on the blacklist the harder it will be for us to recover from these significant losses,” Durano said.

Durano urged local aviation officials to address the issue quickly so that tour packages expected later in the year might still go ahead. Local civil aviation and airline officials have insisted that Philippine carriers are safe. They are hoping next month’s inspection by the European air safety committee will reverse the ban. Durano was not available for further comment on Friday, a public holiday in the Philippines.

Manilla, April 9, 2010 (AFP)