Corporate News

By Keith Richard D. Mariano, Reporter

Okada urging cruise lines to consider Philippine destinations

Posted on September 15, 2016

GAMING MAGNATE Kazou Okada is discussing with certain cruise lines the possibility of including the Philippines among their destinations in line with plans to increase investments in the country’s tourism industry.

Mr. Okada is betting big on the future of Philippine tourism, Maxwell Steele Zetlin, executive director for property marketing at Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment, Inc., told the Asia CEO Forum in Makati City on Wednesday.

“In terms of investment in infrastructure and trying to ensure that the Philippines can be a destination attraction and we can handle that attraction, we will be focusing on many different projects to do, one of which he touched on before was cruise ship,” Mr. Zetlin said.

“We are in discussions with the two largest [in terms of] market share in this industry and we are looking to develop with them a way to ensure that we can get cruise ship not only to Manila Bay but to the Philippines and help promote tourism in that sense,” he added.

Mr. Okada first ventured into the Philippine leisure and tourism market with the development of an integrated casino and resort within the Entertainment City in partnership with Filipino businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuanco.

The Japanese billionaire channels investments for the integrated casino and resort called Okada Manila through Tiger. A portion of the development, which costs $2.4 billion thus far, will open before the year ends.

The investment reflects the optimism of Mr. Okada toward the Philippine tourism industry, Tiger President Steve Wolstenholme said during the forum.

Asked if the regulatory environment remains conducive, given the government’s slant toward terminating online gambling operations catering to local players, Mr. Wolstenholme said: “The administration is keen to promote business, it’s keen to promote tourism, it’s keen to promote the destinations.”

“We will support anything this administration wants to pursue and we will certainly be very conscious to the fact that we are very encouraged by the way his administration is promoting Philippines as a destination, promoting the Philippines a business destination as well.”

In an earlier interview, Mr. Cojuangco noted that Mr. Okada was looking to develop more properties into resorts, golf courses and other attractions as well as bid for international airport projects to support tourism in the country.

“Our chairman is really looking to develop the Philippines, not just Manila, and looking at 7,100 islands as well for future development,” Mr. Zetlin said. “So, these projects are under discussion and will soon be under way.”

In the meantime, Tiger is focused on promoting Okada Manila as tourist destination, Mr. Zetlin noted.

“Just by the facility in itself, gaming is not our only attraction nonetheless; it’s less than 10% of our property. We have a lot more to offer to non-gaming customers and that was really the focus of our chairman,” Mr. Zetlin said.

Okada Manila spans 44 hectares at the foreshore of the Manila Bay. Its gaming area spans 26,410.77 square meters, housing over 500 table games, 3,000 electronic gaming machines and a Sky Casino catering to high-profile guests.

The first phase of the development includes a Y-shaped hotel comprising 15 floors and 993 deluxe rooms. It also features a two-hectare dancing fountain, floor-to-ceiling projection mapping and a beach club. Tiger looks to attracting the growing South Korean, American, Thai and Malaysian markets, aside from the Chinese, to its casino, Mr. Zetlin said.

“But [we will] also go after some different markets as well and that’s why we discussed the Miss Universe tie-up. I think everybody is aware that their main viewer base is Latin America, so we’re looking to make this a destination property within the Philippines,” he added.

The Philippines is tipped to become the next host of the Miss Universe, about 22 years since last sponsoring the pageant in 1994.

Through its integrated resort and casino, Tiger is hoping to convince international tourists to spend at least a night in the National Capital Region that supposedly serves as mere layover to Boracay or Palawan at present.

“Manila cannot be a stopover for an island. The islands are beautiful. We need to encourage people to stay here as a destination to do business as well as destination to come as a visitor and experience all the wonderful things Manila has to offer,” Mr. Wolstenholme said.