The Philippines may lose Chinese tourists amid the mainland’s ban on online gambling, but more Japanese and South Korean visitors are coming over, according to Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank).
“The Philippines and Cambodia – both experiencing a Chinese visitor boom thanks to the casino and Pogos [Philippine offshore gambling operators] – may face a slowdown as China cracks down on online gaming and governments tighten regulations,” Maybank analysts Chua Hak Bin, Lee Ju Ye and Linda Liu said in a report titled China Tourists: Divergent Tides that was released on Friday.
While President Duterte did not stop Pogos from operating in the country despite an appeal from China, Maybank noted that state-run gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp had issued a moratorium on new licences since August while the Department of Justice – which supervises the Bureau of Immigration – was looking at capping at 30 days instead of six months the maximum permissible period for visa upon arrival.
“In the Philippines, the opening of casinos as well as online gambling companies, known as Pogos since 2016, has resulted in a China tourist boom. China accounted for only 5.9 per cent of total visitor arrivals in the Philippines in 2012 before the first casino opened, but the share has climbed to almost 22 per cent as of August 2019,” Maybank said.
It noted visitors from China jumped 61.1 per cent year-on-year during the month of August alone, citing Chinese data agency CEIC.
In those eight months, tourist arrivals from China climbed 39 per cent, CEIC data showed.
“During the recent ‘Golden Week’ in October, Asean continued to see strong tourist growth. Asean countries including Thailand [second], Malaysia [fourth], Singapore [sixth], the Philippines [seventh] and Cambodia [ninth] topped the list of overseas transactions volume by mainland Chinese using Alipay during the week-long holiday. The United States did not appear in the top 10 list this year [versus eighth last year],” Maybank said.
Elsewhere in the region, the Chinese are also proving to be a boon to tourism numbers.
Chinese tourists have been skipping the so-called “five eyes” comprised of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK due to an ongoing trade and tech war, Maybank said.
Chinese visitors were also “avoiding Hong Kong because of the social unrest”, and low arrivals were spilling over to neighbouring Macau, Maybank added.
Maybank also said Asean was benefiting from the diversion of tourists due to the ongoing tensions between Japan and South Korea.
“The Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand appear to be the big beneficiaries of the Japan-Korea feud. In the Philippines, Korean [up 52 per cent in August] and Japanese tourists [up 21 per cent in August] jumped strongly [partly due to low base effects from the Boracay Island closure last year from April to October] to record levels,” it added.
It noted South Koreans also chose the region for the Chuseok season, or their Thanksgiving holiday. Flights were booked for Danang (first on the list), followed by Bangkok (second), and Cebu (fourth).
“South Korea’s airlines are allocating more flights between Seoul and Asean cities, while cutting back on flights to and from Japan . . . The airlines are adding to their Asean routes, with Korean Airlines adding flights to Manila, Danang and Bali starting October,” it noted.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK