Different goals & strategies; Myanmar & Philippines target larger slice of ASEAN tourism pie

Hydrangeas

In the tourism business, driving the industry, has a great deal to do with “Image” and “Vision.”

Take Thailand’s Island Paradise, Phuket, for example; some 20 years ago, it was nothing much on the tourism map. But Thailand’s tourism business leaders had a vision and an image in mind: “The Pearl of the Orient!” Today, Phuket, impressively, is on the global tourism map.

  • The “Image” about Myanmar’s tourism ambition is from Martin J Craigs, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) CEO, who said “Although arrivals growth rates into Asia have slowed a little, they are still robust……..Myanmar, however, has been the story of the year.” And the “Image” about Philippines tourism ambition, is from Channel News Asia, that said: “Philippines positioning itself as Asia’s next gaming hub.”

Yet while Myanmar and the Philippines is set to carve a larger slice of ASEAN tourism, each have its own goals and strategies. Philippines, is targeting for the high-networth tourist, “Gaming” market. Myanmar, arguably, is targeting to attract tourist, less entertainment and excitement in orientation, with its rich culture and heritage.

  • Like Phuket, Myanmar is starting from a very humble beginning.

Wikipedia says, since 1992, the government has encouraged tourism in the country. However, as of July 2006, fewer than 750,000 tourists entered the country annually.[203] Burma’s Minister of Hotels and Tourism Saw Lwin has stated that the government receives a significant percentage of the income of private sector tourism services.[204] Much of the country is completely off-limits to tourists, and the military very tightly controls interactions between foreigners and the people of Burma, particularly the border regions.[205] They are not to discuss politics with foreigners, under penalty of imprisonment, and in 2001, the Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board issued an order for local officials to protect tourists and limit “unnecessary contact” between foreigners and ordinary Burmese people.[206]

The country is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. The lack of an educated workforce skilled in modern technology contributes to the growing problems of the economy.[182] The country lacks adequate infrastructure. Goods travel primarily across the Thai border (where most illegal drugs are exported) and along the Irrawaddy River. Railways are old and rudimentary, with few repairs since their construction in the late 19th century.[183] Highways are normally unpaved, except in the major cities.[183] Energy shortages are common throughout the country including in Yangon and only 25% of the country’s population has electricity.[184]

  • However, Myanmar’s ambition is riding on solid foundation. As PATA says:

Growing at an average rate of 10% during the three quarters of the year, seven reporting destinations in Southeast Asia collectively showed buoyant increases in visitor arrivals from Northeast Asia with more than 1.3 million additional visitors arriving from that sub-region. Fast growing intra-ASEAN travel demand also boosted growth for the period. Nevertheless, most destinations in the sub-region posted softening growth rates compared to the corresponding period last year, with the exception of two significant destinations, Cambodia (+24%) and Myanmar (+43%).

  • Philippines, again like Phuket, has an ambition in tourism that is also being driven by image and vision:

Channel NewsAsia‘s Philippine Correspondent Christine Ong, says, quote: “Gaming destinations like Macau and Singapore are set for competition from the Philippines, once its new sprawling gaming complex becomes fully operational in 2016.” The government hopes the sprawling complex will bring in one million tourists a year, and add to the overall goal of 10 million tourists by 2016, reported Christine.

Christine writes, located just 15 minutes from the airport, the 120-hectare gaming and entertainment centre, called Entertainment City, is Manila’s answer to the Las Vegas Strip. Mr Francis Hernando, Vice President of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, said: “Essentially what it is, it’s more of a tourist destination and less, hopefully, of a gaming destination. And for that matter, we have mandated that over 90 per cent of all the offerings within Entertainment City should be non-gaming related. So, it should heavily be based on entertainment, shopping, retail and obviously the accommodations.”

  • Christine says, “Though the Philippines still has a long way to go compared to Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore, the government believes that with the right blend of private sector investment and improvements in tourism infrastructure, the Philippines would be able to get a 10 percent slice of the world’s gaming pie in a few years time. The Philippines’ gaming industry is projected to earn around US$2 billion in revenue this year, and the government is confident that it can reach US$10 billion by 2016.”

Mr Hernando added: “I don’t think it is being realistic to set our sights on Macau. Macau, with its between US$35-US$40 billion capacity annually, is just too far ahead. Secondly, Macau is really gaming-focused and that is not the direction we wish to take. Macau is not something that we are hoping to overtake, if that’s the question.

“Singapore would probably be a closer model to what we would like to achieve, where there is a good balance between general tourism and gaming.”

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