Siargao, Philippines: helping new local economies take-off!

Siargao is a remote island in the Philippines where the community was able to transform its local economy and improve living standards thanks to the economic benefits derived from the ATR air service.

Watch the video case study:

Allowing local communities to boost their economy

Siargao is an island in the eastern Philippines where the community previously relied largely on coconut plantations and fishing as a source of income.

But the value of coconuts, as a commodity, is very low and dwindling fish stocks has meant that fishing has become an unreliable source of income. Fishermen in Siargao have found that catches are lower and less frequent. The Philippines Statistics Authority says fisheries production in the Philippines fell to 4.35 million metric tonnes in 2018 from 4.69 million metric tonnes in 2014.

The island, which faces the Pacific Ocean, has the best surf beaches in the Philippines, so there was a fledgling surf scene. Surfers, mostly from Australia, ventured to Siargao, but it took two nights by ferry from Manila.

Keeping things natural

Some small-scale resort developers could see the potential of Siargao as a tourist destination because of its beautiful, unspoilt natural environment and the fact it has the best, most famous surf beach in the Philippines – Cloud Nine.

Airlines also recognized the potential and commercial turboprop operators, such as Cebu Pacific Air, were well-positioned to develop this market opportunity because they had ATR aircraft which can take off and land from Siargao’s 1400m-long airport runway.

The ATR’s lower trips costs meant Cebu Pacific could operate to Siargao profitably, even with low passenger volumes.

An island paradise with something for everyone

Cebu Pacific Air has steadily increased air services to the island to 32 flights per week from three flights per week when it first started flying to the island.

The Philippines department of tourism says Siargao had 195,562 tourists in 2018 and forecast that the numbers for 2019 would increase by 33%. Siargao has recently been voted by CNN Travel and Conde Nast Traveller as one of the best holiday islands in the world. The island caters to high-end and budget travellers.

Average daily expenditure by tourists on the island is US$120, according to the Philippines’ Tourism Infrastructure & Enterprise Zone Authority. Of this, accommodation accounts for 31%, food and beverage 15%, guided tours 41% and local transport 5%.

The air service to Siargao has transformed the local economy and fuelled economic growth. Local people on Siargao now have the option of working in the island’s burgeoning tourism industry, which provides relatively high and more stable income.

ATR services to the island have also helped to develop other sectors of the local economy. Perishable goods can now be readily transported to and from the island. Medical personnel and government officials also use the ATR to access the island.