Development of tourist attractions pushed

Posted on December 13, 2012

OTHER ATTRACTIONS should be developed as entertainment and gaming hubs will not be enough to entice tourists, an official of a consultancy firm yesterday said.

Bill Barnett, managing director of Thailand-based asset management and hospitality consulting firm C9 Hotelworks Ltd., said the private sector and the government should develop come-ons for tourists aside from casinos.

"Gaming is not the only answer," Mr. Barnett said in an interview in Makati City yesterday. "It should not only be gaming or shopping, there must be other attractions also."

The government has tapped the private sector to develop the PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) Entertainment City, a multi-billion dollar casino project that will be located in Pasay City.

Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels, Inc., one of the licensees of PAGCOR Entertainment City, will open its Solaire Resort & Casino next year.

If the Philippines wants to rival Macau or Singapore, it should also develop other sites that would generate demand, Mr. Barnett said.

"If you go to Sentosa in Singapore, you have the Universal Studios apart from the casino complex. There are other demand generators," he said.

"Because aside from gambling, they (tourists) have to do other things if you want to keep them busy all day long."

For instance, he said that Intramuros or the "Walled City" in Manila should be developed.

While tourists want to go to the famous Boracay island, a constraint is the poor airport infrastructure, he noted.

"Airports should be improved. It is important for people to have that perception when they visit here," Mr. Barnett.

He said the number of hotel rooms in Metro Manila is expected to grow by 3-5% next year. In order to fill those new rooms, the government should change its tourism mindset.

"There is too much focus on the domestic market, you can’t grow into a world class destination if you too focused on the domestic market," he pointed out.

He went on to urge the government to bring back the Chinese tourists to the country given their volume.

He said the country should come up with ways to persuade Chinese to come back to the Philippines, after the hostage incident in Manila in 2010 that killed eight Hong Kong tourists created a very negative impression on them.

"The missing piece of the puzzle is the Chinese market. In terms of growth potential, they have the bigger number," he said. -- C. H. C. Venzon