MANILA - Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
When international visitors touch down in the Philippine capital, they do not have very far to go to reach the casinos.
Entertainment City is located adjacent to the international airport. Two of its four planned casinos are now open for business. That includes the new resort, the City of Dreams.
When it opened in February, gaming officials said this hotel and casino complex will help turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub.
Manila-based travel writer Carlo Velasco says his city still has a ways to go before that can happen. But he says more casinos can be good for the local economy.
“We do have a need to create or diversify our tourism in Manila. As you can see Manila as a tourism destination is limited in terms of appeal to the international market,” says Velasco.
And in order to make Manila’s gaming industry a success, Velasco says foreign gamblers are essential.
“The casinos in the Philippines need to appeal to the high rollers and most of them come from the international market, mainly China,” says Velasco.
Chinese travelers were the fourth largest nationality that visited the Philippines in 2014. Some observers say this is a market that the country cannot miss out on.
Edieser De la Santa lectures at the University of the Philippines Asian Institute of Tourism.
“Chinese tourists travel in droves, they spend a lot of money and it’s forecast by the World Tourism Organization to be the number one tourism market in the world,” says De la Santa.
But since Beijing issued a travel warning for the Philippines late last year, the number of Chinese tourists here has been on the decline.
De la Santa says the move was most likely in retaliation for territorial disputes with Manila in the South China Sea.
But the City of Dreams casino does not seem worried about the decline in Chinese tour groups. Representatives say they are focused on the domestic market and attracting other Asian gamblers.