Philippine Tourism Poised for Take-Off Thanks to Good Economy, Chinese Market, Baby Boomers and Millennials
“It’s More Fun in The Philippines” is the Philippines’ tourism slogan. And it seems we can expect more fun in the country’s travel and tourism sector.
For this year alone, data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) show that foreign tourist arrivals climbed 12.4 percent to 4.85 million in the first seven months compared to the same period in 2018.
The tourism boom in the country is expected to continue all thanks to Chinese tourists, millennials, baby boomers, the good economy and improved infrastructure according to the hotel chain, Marriott International.
Better economy and more Chinese tourists drive growth
Marriott International recently announced plans to open 25 new hotels in the Philippines, adding around 5,000 more rooms in the next five years. The hotel group currently only has four hotels in the country.
But all these will change soon as the hotel chain is eager to cash in on the growing number of Chinese tourists.
Marriott International Asia Pacific president and managing director, Craig Smith points out that around the world, Chinese inbound travelers have increased from 200,0000 to 1.8 million this year. The Philippines, being a neighbor of China is expected to see gains from the Chinese market.
“We see an increase of Chinese travelers all over Asia and the Pacific and they love the Philippines,” Smith adds. “And we’ve seen that growth of Chinese travelers not just in the city and not just to gamble and shop. But we’re also seeing them starting to venture more into other areas especially into the resorts.”
China is the biggest market for tourism in the world, Smith says. And for the first seven months of 2019, Chinese nationals accounted for the second biggest tourist arrivals in the Philippines with a total of 1,038,409 arrivals.
But the growing number of Chinese tourists isn’t the only reason why the hotel brand intends to more than triple its portfolio by adding some 5,000 hotel rooms in their upcoming hotels in the country.
Smith says that the steady economic growth of the Philippines is a factor in their decision to expand in the country. “Your (The Philippines) economy is growing pretty well. It’s doing pretty well compared to the rest of the world.”
Poised for leisure travel
There’s a growing demand for more leisure travel. Smith says leisure travel is growing four times faster than business travel around the world. This is all thanks to baby boomers who now travel more frequently to enjoy the fruits of their decades of labor as well as millennials who prefer to spend more on experiences.
The rise of leisure travel bodes well for the Philippines given its abundance in breathtaking destinations. “Think of all the destinations that you have. Think of all the ones you have developed and the ones that have yet to be developed. So, you think of all the travelers all across the world and the opportunities there,” he stresses.
The government’s investments in infrastructure are paying off as well. Travel times for foreign arrivals have been cut significantly with the opening and upgrades of airports. This helps attract more foreign tourists in highly popular Philippines destinations. Marriott International is set to open new hotels in popular tourist spots as well, namely Caticlan, Cebu, Davao, and Palawan.
“Infrastructure has grown,” Smith says. “Were seeing airports being finished more roads being done and that's important. Plus, promises of more.”
The government’s focus on safety and security also helps bring in more foreign tourists. “They're cleaning up some markets. The ability to make places safer is important. So we applaud any effort the government has in making places safer, more efficient,” Smith explains.
Improved infrastructure along with the government’s attention to safety and security are sparking interests in the tourism sector in the Philippines. Smith adds that Marriott International is receiving more inquiries from investors who are interested in partnering with the hotel chain and put their money in the hospitality business in the country.
The future looks bright for the Philippine tourism sector, says Smith. And in the next 20 years, the Philippines can expect that its Asian neighbors will dominate the country’s tourist arrival list. “International global travel is important. Going forward to the next 20 years the most important travel is Asian travel within Asia because it's closer and there are many places to explore,” Smith concludes.
Cherrie Regalado is contributor to Esquire Philippines. Follow her on Twitter @cherrieregalado