How hotel boom in Manila is giving hope to Philippine tourism

By Neil Jerome Morales, Reuters

Posted at Mar 06 2015 06:23 PM | Updated as of Mar 07 2015 06:08 PM

MANILA - Global hotel brands are helping Manila add a record number of rooms this year, lured by the growth prospects of its emerging gaming scene.

That will boost the underperforming Philippine tourism sector, although other infrastructure is needed before it can really take off.

First-timers in the Philippines, Accor Group's Novotel and MGallery, Hilton Worldwide's Conrad and Wyndham Worldwide Corp's Tryp will be contributing to the majority of the 4,612 rooms opening in Manila this year. That number is more than double the rooms added last year and four times the average increase in the last four years, according to Colliers International Philippines.

Manila is one of the most active locations in the region in new hotel openings, said Romeo Arahan, a research analyst at the real estate services firm.

Room additions are expected to exceed 3,500 annually in the next two years, mostly in Manila's integrated casino-resorts. The new rooms will help plug Manila's chronic shortage of quality accommodation. The imminent entry of Genting Singapore's Crockfords Tower, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts' Savoy and Hotel Okura's flagship brand will also help draw visitors accustomed to luxury travel.

Still, having more hotel rooms does not solve everything. The archipelago nation suffers from a lack of airports to serve travellers hopping from island to island.

Official data shows the country's 2014 foreign tourist arrivals were slightly below a target of 5 million, already low by Southeast Asian standards. An uptick in Chinese visitors was capped by a territorial dispute with the Philippines. The government expects overall visitors to reach 6 million in 2015.

Aileen Clemente, president of the Federation of Tourism Industries of the Philippines, said she expects 10 million foreign visitors next year, sticking to a target set by the government.

"Attracting tourists is a problem because you have a government that is very ambitious in targets but infrastructure is insufficient to accommodate the targets," Colliers' Arahan told Reuters.