Philippines golf is a big hit as South Korea’s Jeju Airlines made its first chartered flight from its base in Seoul to this free port, flying in 174 Korean nationals who are out for a three-day “golf holiday” here.
The Korean golfers comprise the first batch of about 3,000 tourists from Korea who will visit the Subic Bay Freeport until March under a “Philippines golf junket” program arranged by Hanafil, a Filipino-Korean firm that now operates Subic’s 18-hole golf course.
Philippines Golf at Subic
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza said that two junket flights, with about 180 persons per flight, have been scheduled each week to land at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).
Arreza and SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga personally welcomed the golfers at the SBIA.
Arreza said he was happy now that the SBIA has resumed commercial operations after a year and a half of dormancy when Mandarin Airlines stopped its regular flights here.
“This maiden flight (of Jeju Airlines) demonstrates how important SBIA is to the free port,” he said, adding that the more than 24 scheduled Philippines golf junket flights would contribute about US$ 48-50 million to Subic’s income.
The junket flights program, which is an initiative of HanaTour, Korea’s largest tourism firm and mother company of Hanafil, “would certainly boost Subic’s tourism industry,” Arreza also said, noting that tour packages arranged by the organizers will bring the Korean golfers to other tourism attractions in Subic like beaches, forests, theme parks, recreational facilities, and duty-free shops.
HanaGolf president and CEO Jae Yeoul Kim, whose firm marketed the golf junket flights, said that these junket flights were just the initial result of their promotion of Subic in Korea.
He added that starting March this year, he expects regular tourist flights between Subic and Seoul.
“Subic is such an attractive place, and the main factor that draws tourists here is its secure environment,” Kim said.
He pointed out that 60 percent of tourist travels in Korea is being handled by HanaTour, which he said has an international network and is listed in the Korean Stock Exchange.
He added that with HanaTour’s network, Subic could be further promoted internationally.
“It would not be long before Subic would be recognized as a prime tourist destination among Koreans,” Kim said. “We have the power to do that,” he added.
Kim said they have arranged three tour packages for the visiting golfers: the golf package, which is a three-day, 8-hole golfing spree every morning and a visit to Subic attractions every afternoon; a free-to-do package, which has no fixed schedule; and a holiday tour package, which will become available once HanaGolf finishes its villa and condominium units in Subic.
Hanafil CEO Benjamin Defensor said meanwhile that the Philippines golf junket program would also help promote the SBIA as an entry point for international golfers and tourists.
“With this, Subic Bay will be the next big thing in tourism, especially since it has all the necessary infrastructure to support tourism growth,” Defensor said. “That is why our company is committed to developing the area,” he added.
According to Defensor, Hanafil has already renovated some parts of Subic’s 18-hole golf course and is now gearing up to construct additional nine holes.
On top of this, the company is currently finalizing plans to build a five-star hotel and luxury villas near the golf course at Subic’s Binictican area.