Cambodia will overtake PH tourism in two years

Tony Lopez

Tony Lopez

Tita Valderama complained yesterday about a supermarket chain that encouraged shoppers to collect coupons (with purchases of course) to be exchanged for Swiss cutlery for free. When redemption time came, no such cutlery was available.

In my particular case, SkyCable encouraged me to subscribe, pay six months in advance and have access to more than 50 channels (half of them garbage). Within a few weeks, I could watch only one—yes, only one—channel—ABS-CBN Channel2. I complained. I was told I have to install a blackbox or else I wouldn’t be able to watch any other channel.

This is the Skycable equivalent of kidnapping with ransom. I didn’t like that kind of tactic and refused to buy the black box. So now I can watch only one station—Channel 2. I guess that should contribute tremendously to Channel 2’s viewership ratings. Maybe, the Lopezes (Oskie, Gabby and Peky) can help me. After all, I am also a Lopez and an original one. I was asking Boo Chanco, who used to handle the Lopezes, for the contact number of the Lopezes’ pr girl. He told me she is currently abroad.

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In his State of the Nation Address July 22, President Aquino praised Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez to high heavens.

Said the President: “According to the Oriental Morning Post, we are the ‘Best Tourism Destination of 2012.’ And it seems the Shanghai Morning Post fell in love with our country when they named us the ‘Most Romantic Destination of 2012.’ Scuba Diving Magazine says that the Philippines is the ‘Best Diving Destination.’ And Palawan is the ‘Best Island’ if you ask Travel + Leisure Magazine. It seems they just stopped short of calling us paradise.”

BS Aquino added: “Given such resounding praise, it comes as no surprise that in 2012, we registered 4.3 million tourist arrivals in our country—another new record high. This figure is a 21.4 percent increase from when we assumed office in 2010, when only an estimated 3.1 million tourists visited our country.”

“A stronger tourism sector will generate more job opportunities. The DOT estimates that tourism created 3.8 million jobs in 2011,” BS Aquino enthused.

According to data by the World Tourism Organization, the Philippines is not exactly the leader in Asean tourism. It is the laggard among the six major Asean countries.

In 2012, Malaysia drew 25.003 million tourists arrivals— No.10 in the world and the only emerging economy (outside China) in the world’s Top Ten tourist destinations.

After Malaysia, No. 2 in Asean in terms of tourist arrivals is Thailand 22.354 million; Singapore 10.39 million (2011 data); No. 3 Indonesia 8.044 million; No. 4 Vietnam 6.848 million; No. 5 Philippines 4.273 million; No. 6 Cambodia $3.584 million; and No. 7 Myanmar 593,000.

Among the five original Asean members, the Philippines is No. 5—last, in tourism. Since 2009, the Philippines has been overtaken by Vietnam by a wide margin. Vietnam had 6.848 million visitors, 2.675 million more than the Philippines’ 4.273 million in 2012. Unlike the Philippines, the Vietnam doesn’t spend billions advertising the country as “more fun.” Yet, it attracts 38 percent more tourists.

In 2010, the Philippines attracted 3.52 million tourists; Vietnam 5.05 million tourists, 30 percent more. In 2011, the Philippines had 3.917 million arrivals; Vietnam 6.014 million, or 35 percent more. In 2012, Vietnam gained 38 percent more tourists than our fun country.

Using the 2010 ratio of 1.3 tourists for Vietnam for every one tourist for the Philippines, the latter should have attracted 4.793 million tourists—not the 4.273 million, or a difference of 520,600 tourists.

We should be doing more than 5.0 million tourists by now, not 4.2 million. Cambodia is already breathing down our neck and within three years (or less), it will have more tourists than we do.

In 2010, the Philippines had 3.52 million tourists, 1.01 million more tourists than Cambodia’s 2.5 million. With just a single major attraction, Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh has narrowed the gap with Manila to just half a million tourists. Cambodia’s share of the 233.56 million tourists who visited the Asia Pacific last year was 1.5 percent, up from a measly 1.2 percent (of 205.06 million Asia Pacific arrivals) in 2010. The Philippine share in 2012 was 1.8 percent, up slightly from 1.7 percent in 2010.

In the past three years, Cambodian tourist arrivals have risen by an average of 18.4 percent per year compared to the Philippines’ 12.36 percent per year. At these rates, Cambodia will overtake the Philippines in just three years in tourism volume. No wonder San Miguel Corp. President Ramon S. Ang has bought 49 percent of a new Cambodian low-cost airline.

So far, Cambodia has attracted backpackers and penny-ante travellers as shown by its earning only $1.8 billion from 3.58 million arrivals compared to the Philippines’ $4.014 billion receipts from 4.273 million tourists. The average visitor in Cambodia spends only $502 per visit. The average tourist in the Philippines spends $939 per visit.

International tourist arrivals breached the one-billion mark in 2012 with 1.035 billion tourists, up 4% from 995 million in 2011, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

The UNWTO expects tourist arrivals to grow by another 3-4 percent in 2013, with Asia and the Pacific still the fastest-growing region (5 percent to 6 percent growth), followed by Africa with 4-6 percent growth, the Americas 3-4 percent; Europe 2-3 percent, and the Middle East 0-5 percent.

The growth in tourist arrivals was matched by a 4 percent increase in tourism receipts, which reached $1,075 billion ($1.075 trillion) last year compared with $1,042 billion in 2011.

For the second year in a row, Asia and the Pacific posted the highest growth rate of 7 percent with total tourist arrivals of 233.56 million (23 percent of the one billion 2012 global tourist arrivals)

Asia and the Pacific generated $324 billion in tourism receipts (up 6 percent from $298.61 billion), or 30 percent of the world total.

Within Asia and the Pacific, Southeast Asia posted the highest growth rate in the number of tourists at 9.4 percent to 84.56 million from 77.27 million.

Globally, tourism accounts for nine percent of the global economic output or GDP and $1.3 trillion in exports. One of every 11 individuals employed is in tourism.


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  1. vivencia sulit on

    At Cambodia you can stay in a standard acceptable room with aircon,bathroom,space around you at 500 area and can go home at night without fear of being mugged..they have no big malls but its ok as lots of flea markets much enjoyable than the malls..and they love their tourist..they understands that tourism helps them…they cant speak good english almost some cant speak but they try their best to help you..actually you can seldom see a police money needed in their travel tax or terminal tax..lots of tourist but you breeze thru..
    That i cannot the phil the cheapest hotel even run down hotels cost at 1500 pesos even outside cost more at manila…it seems people at tourism dept would travel around rather than really think hard how to improve the tourism industry in the philippines..imagine its cheaper to go to vietnam,thailand,cambodiathan going to palawan,boracay etc…

  2. Let’s be honest. Most tourists come here for the sex. If you want to improve tourism, stop fighting the sex industry. Legalize it. Regulate it. Make it safer.

  3. Bernard P. Tansiongco on

    Well, Philippine tourism is considered the laggard in Asia, so wait, we have nowhere else to go but up!

  4. As a frequent foreign visitor to the Philippines, I thought I would comment on tourism. It always saddens me that the Philippines cannot capitalise more on tourism, and I think it is because the tourist industry always seems to be trying to compete in the tourism market of 15 to 20 years ago, not today.

    I speak from the Australian perspective, so that my colour things, but Australian tourists are generally looking for different and authentic experiences, and other things are a bonus.

    I recently took a three week trip to the Philippines and took my father and a friend along, both of whom were going for the first time. The parts that they loved were getting off the beaten track staying with a friend’s local family in Surigao, experiencing different foods, the few intact natural areas we travelled to, the delight of Vigan and learning about Manila’s fascinating history.

    Australian travellers have a range of choices when it comes to holidays in Asia – there are plenty of destinations with modern shopping malls and casinos (not to mention that we have those at home as well). You could be anywhere in the world inside a mall, and those that are really serious about shopping will go to Hong Kong or Singapore. The Philippines still seems to push that sort of development as if it is still the 1980s and that cannot be found in many places in South East Asia.

    We were dismayed in Vigan to see that fast-food chains are slowly taking over some of the historic houses on Calle Crisologo and renovating them in unsympathetic colours. Likewise the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros is lovely, but its ground floor looks more like American colonial timber architecture and could have been designed better to fit in with Intramuros’ heritage.

    The article cites Angkor Wat as being the primary attraction in Cambodia, and that is true. It shows the pulling power of something unique and historical. If the Philippines could restore Intramuros properly (as has been done with Casa Manila) and look after its other historical treasures, I am sure the Philippines would attract a surge in interest.

    What it comes down to is being confident to present to the world your best features, without trying to overdevelop and emulate what other countries have done. The Philippines has amazing natural and historical assets, a warm and friendly population with excellent English and a laid-back, fun-loving and fascinating culture. All that is required is the basic infrastructure to allow these natural strengths to shine through.

    For the record, I think the “More fun in the Philippines” is a great campaign that plays to these strengths and have come across many people here who remember the ads and tagline when I tell them where I am going.