The Outstanding Young Man for Tourism
A proud Caviteno, Dino Reyes-Chua, president of SkyJet Airlines, has been promoting the different un-reached islands and provinces of the country. SkyJet is the country’s first boutique low-cost regional airline founded in September 2005 and began exclusive commercial operations in routes like Basco, Batanes (its first destination in 2012), Coron and San Vicente in Palawan (in 2013), Siargao (in 2017) and Camiguin (in 2019). Before the pandemic, he was awarded by the Junior Chamber of Commerce International (JCI) as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men during the 60th anniversary of this award-giving body. The TOYM is given to Filipinos who excel in various fields before reaching 40 years old.
At the age of 33, he led a group of investors and co-founded SkyKet Airlines to discover the undiscovered island gems of the country, as he believes that “if we can develop hundred more island destinations (of the 7,000 plus islands) and introduce them to the world, the impact of tourism to the economy will be enormous.
SkyJet started operating utilizing an 80-seater British Aerospace Jet, the same aircraft used by Queen Elizabeth and the British Royal Family. Their first flight served the fastest Manila to Batanes Daily flights, the first domestic airline to serve this route until Philippine Airline and Cebu Pacific launched their own flights there because of increased demand.
“SkyJet created the demand by promoting the Province of Batanes by featuring it to several Travel TV Shows and We even sponsored a movie featuring the beauty of Batanes.” Dino added.
With Batanes’ success, SkyJet launched the first-ever direct flight to Siargao island. “A few years ago, it was a big hassle going to Siargao, via Cebu or Butuan or Surigao and two hour to the pier and another two hours by boat to reach the island of Siargao. But SkyJet was a game changer by launching the first direct flight to Siargao airport in just an hour. This boosted the tourism industry in Siargao.” said Celebrity Congressman Alfred Vargas whose family was originally from Surigao. “Because of SkyJet, more hotels and resorts are opening now and a great influx of tourists are traveling to this surfing haven,” he added.
SkyJet then launched direct flights to Camiguin, Coron and San Vicente in Palawan (The new gateway to El Nido). SkyJet proved that travelers are willing to pay extra for the comfort and hassle-free vacation. During their early years, SkyJet served free snacks, drinks and free-flowing champagne in all its flights which surprised the passengers. The company offered seat sales during travel fairs for as low as P99 to Boracay or Coron, Palawan.
In 2016 and 2017, SkyJet bagged the Top Grosser Award in Travel Expo for 2 consecutive years. In 2018, Dino also ventured into hotels and resorts to complement the airline business as the customers want to buy all-in packaged tours complete with round-trip tickets and hotel accommodation at one affordable price.
Dino founded the Palladium Hotels and Resorts International in Coron, Palawan and plans to open more hotels in Boracay and Siargao. But the pandemic delayed all these plans for a later date. Last year, the whole country was under lockdown which canceled all leisure travels.
“We were really shocked because we have great plans for 2020. Our new planes arrived and we were ready to launch more flights to different hard-to-reach island destinations around the country but we had to cancel these plans.” Dino explained.
“2020 was really bad for the travel and tourism, especially to airline companies. We had to think of ways to survive and to keep our staff and crew. We are serving cargo flights for a year now.” Dino added.
While the airline business around the world is hardest hit by the global pandemic, Dino is still hopeful that the Philippines can generate millions of jobs and billions of incomes from several ancillary businesses connected to travel.
Despite the uncertainties of Covid-19, Dino said he would not stop pushing for his goal to serve the underserved island destinations.
By Rose de la Cruz