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Korean golf tour operator aiming to revive Subic airport operations

Posted on 10:23 PM, March 21, 2010 [ BusinessWorld Online ]


SUBIC FREE PORT -- South Korean tour operator Hanatour, through local partner Hanafil Golf and Tour, Inc., plans to revive the operations of the Subic Bay International Airport by bringing in more foreign golfers.

Airport operations were put to a halt after the departure of multinational logistics giant Federal Express (FedEx) and the sudden shift of airlines to the booming Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark free port in Pampanga.

“We are planning to use the [Subic Bay International Airport] and a partner airline company with low-cost fares to bring in more golfers from other countries,” Hanafil President and Chief Executive Benjamin John Defensor III said.

Mr. Defensor said the company will resume junket flights once the Subic golf course, which is undergoing massive rehabilitation, is reopened.

The company has completed 40% of the reconstruction process which is part of committed $48 million in total investments for the project.

Mr. Defensor said the company would also be banking on the recently signed agreement among the Bureau of Immigration, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Clark Development Corp. (CDC) that would allow the visa-free entry to foreigners visiting the Subic and Clark free port zones.

The agreement signed by Immigration Commissioner Marcelino C. Libanan, SBMA Administrator Armand C. Arreza, and CDC President Benigno N. Ricafort allows foreigners to stay in both free port zones without a visa for 14 days.

However, the no-visa privilege will only be extended to foreign visitors arriving in the country through the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and the Subic Bay International Airport.

Mr. Defensor said the golf course, the former Subic Bay Golf and Country Club, was designed to handle 180 golfers a day, and that number would expand once nine more holes are added in the next phase of the development.

“That includes the reshaping of the greens and fairways of the first nine holes to make it ‘flow’ better,” he added.

The company has already spent almost $5 million or P230 million, including the design of the houses and villas that will be built inside the golf course. The houses and villas boast of a perfect view of manicured lawns and greens.

“Current improvements are the eco-friendly irrigation system that uses recycled water, brand-new nursery that can use salt water and the drainage system that was replaced to accommodate the volume of rainfall come this rainy season,” Mr. Defensor said.

“But these renovations are not just for new members, the company is also accommodating all previous members of the golf club as long as they update their accounts and coordinate with us and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority,” Mr. Defensor explained.

He added that existing members should update their accounts to avoid the price increase once the new golf course opens in December this year.

Last year, Hanafil launched its golf-tour vacation package which attracted more than 170 Korean golfers and tourists via Jeju Airline’s “junket flight” from South Korea. The company is eyeing more flight frequencies to Subic which has become a favorite destination of Korean tourists.

“With the success of our initial junket flight, we will be establishing more and more flights. The increase in the number of tourists in Subic last year can also be attributed to the influx of visiting Koreans,” Mr. Defensor said.

“We have earned at least P7.2 million for our initial junket flights. We believe we could hit more revenues with this kind of tour package that promotes sports tourism in our country,” Mr. Defensor added.

“We are definitely on the right track.” -- Rey Garcia

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