Travel News: What does the Philippines pivot to China mean for tourism?

China was the country with the most international departures world wide at over 84 Million, making Chinese travelers an ever-growing presence, especially in Asia. Now, that the Philippine government under President Duterte is making a “pivot” towards China, what will that mean for travel to the Philippines? The Department of Tourism is looking to grow the tourism industry in the country and China is one of the target countries. Let’s look at the data and see how it could impact your travel plans!

The Philippines received close to 5 Million international visitors in 2014 – far behind popular Malaysia (27.4M) and Thailand (24.8M) and even Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are catching up quickly (according to World Bank data).

phl_chi-inbound-travelersChinese travelers have been a big part of that growth story, as you can see from the below CAPA data for the 1.Half of 2016:

phl_chi-chinese-travelersSo, even at the time of of heightened tension between China and the Philippines due to the ruling on the South China Sea earlier this year, travel to the Philippines has been growing fast than in any other SE Asian country! Because a lot of tourism in China is handled by state-run travel organizations, the newly friendly relationship could increase the number of tourists to the Philippines. Manila has seen a lot of investment into integrated gambling and entertainment resorts that target the Chinese market. Increased business activity could also increase business travel.

The major Filipino and Chinese airlines are already serving the air travel market between the two countries (with the exception of China’s only 5-star airline Hainan Airlines). Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are the two biggest carriers and PAL and Xiamen Airlines have added the most capacity over the last year:

phl_chi-capa-airlinecapaChinese mass tourism that has driven growth in Thailand would likely target the beach destinations in the South, with Boracay, Bohol and Cebu the most developed resort areas – but those destinations currently have a total non-stop capacity of less than 1,000 seats per week. The challenge for a rapid increase of inbound tourism will be the air transport infrastructure. Manila’s International Airport is already operating beyond it’s capacity with frequent delays due to airport crowding. So, new non-stop flights bypassing Manila would be needed to grow Chinese tourism to the beaches of the South.

Boracay Beach PanNightThe hotel industry is well ahead of the air industry, with massive casino hotels rising quickly in Manila. The Chinese-owned Hennan Group is opening large hotels (like the Hennan Bohol with more than 400 rooms) that are able to cater to large tour groups.

With more than 7,000 islands, many of them undeveloped, there is lots of room to grow for tourism in the Philippines and a chance for the country to grow the industry and for employment opportunities outside Metro Manila.
If you prefer well developed resort destinations, you will likely find more options and easier access in the future. If you prefer to travel independently and off the beaten path – there are still plenty of islands that see few travelers and will remain the experience that the Philippines and the ever-friendly Filipinos are known for. Tourism, like global trade, is not a zero-sum game and there is lots of room for growth in the Philippines, regardless of where the travelers are coming from. The investments into the travel infrastructure will benefit group and individual travelers alike, so to me, this is win-win-win situation all around.

I will continue to visit and review developed resort destinations and off-the beaten path islands to help you find the experience you are looking for – and there is a lot to visit and review in the Philippines! Stay tuned for hotel reviews from Boracay, tips for scuba diving in Anilao and less visited islands like Siargao! I will also try to review some of the Chinese carriers serving the Philippines, so you know what to expect!

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