We take a closer look at the travel promotion that's disrupting tourism across the Philippines.
Piso fares are democratising travel and encouraging holidaymakers to leave the beaten track...
Across the globe, holiday time means sitting down with friends or family to carefully choose where you’re all heading. A cultured weekend in Paris, perhaps, or letting it all hang out in Las Vegas. Come summer, Easter or Christmas people jet off in their millions to the most popular tourist spots on Earth to bask in the familiar glow of these carefully cultivated destinations.
The rise of piso fares in the Philippines
Is there another way? Filipino airline Cebu Pacific seemed to think so. Operating since 1996, this low-cost airline introduced the aptly named piso fare, a discretionary promotion which offers tickets at the cost of, yes, one Philippine peso.
Of course, there are extras to pay on this base fare. Taxes, booking fees and occasionally a fuel surcharge are added, but even with these taken into consideration travellers can bag a flight for the equivalent of US$40. In fact, InsightAsia’s intrepid Research Director is currently looking forward to a flight she paid less than US$30 for.
What’s the catch? Well, as mentioned above, these promotions are discretionary. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason behind when and why the discount is offered so travellers need to stay on their toes. The destinations of these flights are also based on the airline’s whim, and are unlikely to head to the in-demand tourist spots which will always command top dollar.
Then there’s the wait. Piso fare flights have to be booked well in advance. In some cases, holiday-makers wait up to a full year from booking their tickets before they travel. Again, these flights seldom fall within the popular times of year, so flexibility is an absolute must.
What are the effects of piso fares?
Despite all this, piso fare flights have quite literally taken off. Arguably, it’s the most popular promotion of its kind and is helping to level the playing field in an industry which was once seen to cater only to the affluent. Cebu Pacific has been joined by rivals, AirAsia, who announced in March 2015 that they were to step up the number of piso fares they offer. In fact, they offered three million seats flying to over 20 countries!
These promotions have hugely disrupted the established holiday routine for thousands of Filipinos. Annual leave is now booked around the dates of their piso fare flights, rather than traditional holidays. The dramatically lowered cost has also put flying on the radar for more young people and students than ever before.
Disrupting Filipino tourism
The effect on tourism in the Philippines has been enormous and this has scope beyond the simple calculus of ‘more people going on holiday.’ With the time at which people are flying and their destinations dictated mainly by the airlines, tourism is spread more evenly throughout the year.
Big tourist attractions like Metro Manila and Cebu City are always going to draw people in, there’s no evidence to suggest the piso fare has damaged tourism here. What it has done is spread the market more evenly and provide an enormous boost to local tourism.
Travel bloggers have long since latched onto the promotion which has put this highly competitive sector of the blogosphere within reach of aspiring journalists across the region. A thriving community of piso fare bloggers have come to share their experiences and tips with this uniquely Filipino jet-set culture.
Are you a piso fare traveller with a story to tell? Do you have questions to help plan your next vacation? Leave a comment below, contact us or connect with us on LinkedIn for more exclusives from InsightAsia.