With its archipelago of beguiling island destinations and an impressive urban business and leisure tourism portfolio, the Philippines is still considered an unexplored land of endless marvels. Emily Millett investigates.
Although the Philippines has only recently entered the spotlight with its nascent but blossoming tourism scene, the destination already boasts a vibrant and thriving hospitality industry and a flourishing economy, increasingly attracting positive attention for its unique and authentic product.
The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) is optimistic that the upward growth of the country’s international tourist arrivals (registered at 11.4 per cent for the first quarter of 2017) will likely continue, as it anticipates millions of dollars’ worth of investments in infrastructure, alongside aggressive marketing efforts and heightened security all over the country.
Regional general manager, Philippines and Thailand, Ascott, Arthur Gindap said: “We continue to see strong potential for growth in the Philippines, which is forecasted by the World Bank to grow close to seven per cent annually over the next three years, making it one of the top performing economies in East Asia.”
Numerous new hotels and resorts have either recently opened, such as the five-star Grand Hyatt Manila, or are set to open over the coming years, including the five-star Sheraton Mactan Resort in 2019 and Hotel Okura Manila in 2020. Located on the coral island of Mactan, Sheraton Mactan Resort will be home to a hotel and branded residences. The beachfront property will offer 250 guest rooms, a Shine Spa for Sheraton, three dining venues, a swimming pool, Sheraton Fitness facilities and function space totalling 1,313m². The Residences at Sheraton Mactan Resort are scheduled to open before the end of 2020, with 182 units consisting of one- to three-bedroom apartments.
Hotel Okura Manila will form part of Bayshore City Resorts World’s Entertainment City. Designed to target both business and leisure travellers, the 13-storey hotel will comprise 380 rooms, dining facilities, four meeting/banquet rooms, a spa and rooftop pool.
And it’s not just the hospitality sector that is getting a boost in the Philippines. The aviation sector is also witnessing its fair share of infrastructural developments, with Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) currently undergoing a major expansion, in a bid to increase its capacity to 12.5 million passengers annually. This year, it is expected to welcome 10 million arrivals, a 12 per cent increase on 2016.
Efforts for aviation development and tourism investment are not going unnoticed; the island province of Cebu was recently announced as the host nation for Routes Asia 2019.
“We are very optimistic to witness the robust growth of Philippine aviation and tourism, especially in Central Visayas, with the huge opportunity that comes from hosting Routes Asia 2019 in Cebu,” said secretary, Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), Wanda Tulfo-Teo. “We foresee significant gains similar to the results arising from having the same forum in Manila last year.”
Manila hosted the 2016 edition of Routes Asia, the largest routes development forum in the region that unites leading airlines, airports and their stakeholders to discuss air services to, from and within Asia.
According to a partial report released by DOT, Cebu welcomed close to 1.5 million visitors from January to April 2017, an increase of 4.16 per cent on the 1.43 million visitors during the same four-month period in 2016.
A WIDENING AUDIENCE
Synonymous with the continuously improving tourism infrastructure in the Philippines, the destination is also seeing a broadening of its feeder market audience, with new destinations showing interest each year.
“The number of guests we receive increases year-on-year and we are welcoming larger numbers of tourists from China, Korea and Japan, mainly because of proximity and flights,” general manager, Amanpulo, Christophe Olivro told TTG. “The Philippines has been previously undiscovered as a destination but is growing in popularity due to the array of different experiences and the impeccable service and hospitality. The country is diverse and the price value is good.”
According to Olivro, the property is proving popular amongst the honeymoon markets in the US and Europe, both of which like to hop between the thousands of world class islands.
Meanwhile, following a recent study by DOT, the Philippines is also seeing a year-on-year increase from various European destinations, with visitor arrivals from the French market showing steady growth from 2015 to 2017.
Speaking to TTG about tourism arrivals to the Philippines, marketing and PR manager, The District Boracay, Vina Mataganas said: “There’s a good mix of tourists here in the Philippines. There are the backpackers, the flashpackers, as well as those who are on the lookout for private getaways. This is because of the Philippines’ diverse tourist destinations – white sand beaches, private islands, lagoons – as well unique experiences like swimming with the whale sharks or trekking a man-made rice terrace.”
In conjunction with the destination’s popular and evolving offering, the hospitality industry is also working hard to respond to current trends influencing the sector internationally, as well as in the Philippines itself.
“We are responding by creating offerings that meet these new trends, as evidenced by our F&B portfolio, which now includes the Japanese restaurant, Nama,” Olivro explained to TTG.
The property currently has a Japanese speaking guest assistant and recently brought onboard a Mandarin-speaking guest assistant to respond to the increase in travellers from Japan and China, and is also in the process of translating its menus and forms into these languages to make guests feel more at home.
“There is also a trend towards more immersive experiences, which is why we have created our Experiences Department, so that we can truly listen to what our guests want during their stay and then make it happen,” said Olivro. “From the Manamoc Village Tour, which gives guests the opportunity to give back to the community, to cooking classes preceded by harvesting your own vegetables from our organic garden, to spectacular bespoke helicopter tours, we hope to bring treasured experiences to a gem of a holiday.”
With the Philippines’ growing status as a gastronomic destination, F&B improvements are also being seen at The District Boracay, with the hotel set to add new flavours to its dining line-up in the coming months.
“A new restaurant and a café are set to open by the end of the year and in the first quarter of 2018 respectively,” Mataganas told TTG.
Although there is a constant stream of new resorts and hotels opening in Boracay, The District Boracay is still a popular option among travellers.
“Our property is a boutique resort and we intend to keep it that way. That’s why, instead of adding more rooms, we are expanding our services,” explained Mataganas. “Two years ago, we opened our spa, and there are a lot of tourists booked at other resorts who come to us for a massage. We’ve also noticed that last-minute bookings are growing by the day, and that’s why we try to come-up with offers to compete with other resorts.”
The Philippines is enjoying its rise to fame as an emerging travel destination, maintaining this new-found attention with large-scale investments, developments and on-trend initiatives.