Why Tourism in Manila and The Philippines continues to grow April 20 2018, 0 Comments

Traditionally, Americans have accounted for the highest number of tourists visiting the Philippines each year. However, figures published by the Manila Times show that of the record 6.6 million visitors in 2017, just over 1.6 million were from South Korea and just under 1 million were from China. Added air routes and a more flexible Visa Upon Arrival (VUA) system have clearly paid off for the Philippines in attracting visitors from those two Asian countries in particular, but additionally, the country remains increasingly popular as a vacation destination for tourists from North America and Europe.

With such a wide variety of attractions to bring in the tourists, Manila is a popular travel hub for those keen to enjoy the urban center itself, or as a base from which to embark upon wider adventures of the Philippines. We take a look at key elements which are helping the country and its capital to continue attracting tourists from around the world.

Colonial History and Culture

It’s fair to say that modern day Manila wouldn’t be the same without its rich fusion of Asian and Western cultural influences. After being part of the Kingdom of Brunei, Manila was firmly put on the map as one of Asia’s key trading hubs when Spain gained sovereignty over the Philippines in 1565. Indeed, the archipelago of islands was named after King Philip II of Spain, during a period in which the seat of Spanish power was located in the old walled city of Intramuros, which literally translates as the city “between walls” and to this day, it remains one of the most popular historical tourist destinations in Metro Manila.

With almost 3,000 reviews at TripAdvisor, the walled city of Intramuros is considered a must-see attraction when visiting Manila. Many of the original Spanish colonial buildings were destroyed during the World War II Battle of Manila, when the occupying Japanese Imperial Army made their last stand against American forces and Filipino guerillas. However, the historic walls and Fort Santiago remain largely intact, while San Agustin Church as a UNESCO World Heritage Site has been preserved and restored, with its original structure dating back to 1587.

Much of the attractions within the walled city lovingly promote Filipino heritage, including several museums showcasing Manila’s past. These offer a walk through a range of interesting aspects of local history, ranging from Spanish and American colonial influences to cultural and artistic displays of ethnic diversity, or celebrations of national heroes.

Entertainment City

In both China and South Korea, gambling laws are much more stringent. The huge success of Macao over the last decade has capitalized on that, but Manila is now also one of the most popular casino resort destinations for international tourists according to Betway’s list of the world’s top casino destinations. This is largely thanks to massive investment in the Entertainment City project in the Bay City area of Parañaque by PACGOR, that will eventually cover around 90 hectares south of the Manila Metro urban capital. With the aim of making this area of the Philippine capital the "Las Vegas of Manila", the Solaire Resort and Casino was the first fully inclusive resort complex to open in 2013, quickly followed by the City of Dreams Manila resort in a joint venture between Melco-Crown. In December 2016, Okada Manila also opened its doors as one of the Universal Entertainment Corporarion’s latest projects, with a casino that already features 500 gaming tables and over 3,000 slot machines, plus the world’s largest multicolor dancing water fountain as one of numerous attractions for guests.

Just to the south of Metro Manila’s cultural, historical and economic heart, the location chosen for Entertainment City was no coincidence and has been carefully planned, meaning that tourists don’t have to travel far to enjoy all the main attractions the sprawling city has to offer. What’s more, the local government is serious about the Philippines challenging Macau and Singapore as Asia’s gambling hotspot in the future, because corporations thinking of opening a new casino resort must invest at least $2 billion in any project.

Gateway to Natural Wonders

As an archipelago with over 7,600 islands, the Philippines offers tourists a rich and unparalleled range of biodiversity, whether it’s the countless miles of pristine beaches, abundant rainforests and unique animal species, or lofty mountain peaks and volcanos. The capital of Manila and its extensive transport links by sea and air, also provide an ideal vacation base or stepping off point to explore the natural wonders of the country.

The urban sprawl of Manila itself might seem endless, but for adventurous tourists willing to strike out a little further, their efforts will be rewarded. Just 54 miles northwest of the capital is Mount Pinatubo, which last erupted in June 1991 and actually caused global temperatures to drop by half a degree Celsius for two years - such was the scale of the eruption. Nowadays, thankfully, it’s a much more tranquil location and evidence that even after such a dramatic event, nature always recovers, leaving a crater lake that’s very popular with tourists.

Heading west from Manila and southwards from Pinatubo, and within easy range of a day trip from the capital, is Subic Bay. Itineraries can vary depending on the tour operators you choose, but most usually involve collection from your hotel and a 75-mile drive to the bay area itself. The highlight of such a trip is the chance to trek into the jungle and meet the indigenous Aetas people, while also getting to see plenty of the local wildlife.

Diversity of Choice

There’s no doubt that central to the appeal of the Philippines is the choice of vacations on offer, making Manila is a great starting point for planning vacations. Whether it’s entertainment, relaxing on the beautiful tropical beaches and trying to do as little as possible, delving into the rich and colorful cultural history, or getting adventurous and exploring the abundant natural wonders throughout the islands, there’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do.