MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines’s growing potential as the region’s next best tourism and gaming hub was given prominence during an international forum attended by the finance ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and members of the international investing community.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) Chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. said that while the Philippine gaming industry still has a long way to go compared to Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore, with the right blend of private-sector investment, regulatory maturity and improvements in tourism infrastructure, “we believe that a 10-percent slice of the world’s gaming pie in a few years’ time is an achievable target.”
Naguiat said the “breakout session on tourism and gaming during the ninth Asean Finance Ministers’ Investor Seminar [Afmis] was well attended by fund managers, stock brokers, stock market analysts and representatives of financial institutions.”
He said this indicated the high interest of international investors on tourism, specifically gaming, as one of the main engines for growth in the Philippines.
The Philippines recently hosted the Afmis at the Island Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong where Naguiat was invited as one of the panelists during the breakout sessions. The forum was sponsored by research firms HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, UBS and Bloomberg. It promoted the attractiveness of the region as an investment haven.
The interactive discussions highlighted the drivers of growth in Asia —tourism and gaming, resources and energy, real estate, infrastructure and consumer and retail.
Aside from Naguiat, the session panel for tourism and gaming included Lloyd Nathan, CEO of Asian Coast Development Ltd., which is developing the MGM Integrated Resort in Ho Tram, Vietnam; Aireen Omar, CEO of AirAsia Berhad; Dato’ Lee Choong Yan, president and COO Of Genting Malaysia Berhad; and Kingson Sian, president of Travellers International Hotel Group Inc., which operates Resorts World Manila.
“That forum gave us a chance to present to the members of the investing community the growth areas in the Philippines. One of them is gaming, which is growing in acceptance as an important element of tourism. In fact, even our Department of Tourism has included it as a core product under leisure and entertainment,” Naguiat said.
In his presentation, Naguiat talked about the gaming landscape in the Philippines, its growth potential, the country’s rich tourist attractions and its strategic location to main markets.
“On the macro level, the Asia Pacific is in exciting times for global travel. The Philippines is geographically gifted with respect to distances to the region’s most prolific travelers. And based on statistics, the country is being visited mainly for leisure and entertainment,” Naguiat said.
“All of these are good reasons for Pagcor to help the government boost revenues by raising the gaming industry to the next level. Our contribution to Philippine tourism is the Entertainment City which we are developing together with the private sector.”
Sian supported Naguiat’s observation. He added that based on their experience in Resorts World Manila, “we are optimistic that we would do even better with the second property. This is the reason why we are already planning for the Resorts World Bayshore project.”
Four Integrated Resorts (IRs) are being built by Pagcor together with four private proponents in the 100-hectare Entertainment City project. The resorts are expected to provide 5,000 hotel rooms that can accommodate up to a million tourists annually, and also offer over a million square meters of shopping, gaming, hotel and entertainment.
“At full development, Entertainment City is expected to have the capacity to deliver up to $10 billion annually in gaming revenues, as well as generate over 400,000 direct and indirect jobs. We are highly enthusiastic about this project and the impact that it will have on Philippine tourism,” Naguiat said.
Naguiat was asked if local players would be allowed to play in Entertainment City following the Singapore model.
“We cannot prevent them from going there. We do not want to deprive them of the chance to see and experience the world-class entertainment that the IRs will provide. However, we will make sure that regulation will be in place,” he said.
Nathan agreed with Naguiat’s statement. “The domestic audience should be given a chance to enjoy the IRs,” he said.
According to Naguiat, only the Philippines and Vietnam have IR projects in the pipeline among the Asean members.
“It’s a good thing that people are expressing their excitement and optimism that the Entertainment City will push through the way Pagcor described it to be in terms of size and potential. That only shows they believe we have what it takes to put up this ambitious project,” Naguiat said.