Razon optimistic on the Philippines as tourism grows

Bloomberry Resorts Chairman and CEO Enrique Razon said he’s confident about the future for the Philippines’ casinos as tourist arrivals gain and infrastructure improves.

“You know, with more properties coming online, it should increase the size of the (Philippine) market. I think medium- to long-term, everybody’s going to do great,” he told CNBC in an interview.

While the number of casinos Bloomberry opens in Manila ultimately depends on the size of the market, Razon said having four casinos in the next 5 to 6 years would be “an okay mix.” The company currently operates the Solaire Resort and Casino in Entertainment City and has said it plans a $418 million investment in Quezon City.

The Philippines has seen a pickup in tourism numbers in 2016, especially from China after ties improved between the two countries under new President Rodrigo Duterte.

The country had 5.96 million arrivals in 2016, just shy of its six million target, but an 11.3 percent gain from the prior year.

Countries from Asia made up 60.56 percent of the total visitors or 3,613,725 arrivals. East Asia filled more than half of total volume with 3,040,860 arrivals, while the remaining fragments came from ASEAN with 461,698 arrivals and South Asia with 111,167 arrivals.

China arrivals jumped 37.65 percent and tourism officials are targeting 3 million Chinese arrivals this year. On a visit to Beijing in October, tourism officials from the two countries signed a Memorandum of Agreement on Tourism Cooperation.

“Travel restrictions to the Philippines have been lifted by China after President Duterte’s visit to China, so that’s helped generally in tourism coming into the Philippines,” Razon said.

Finally, a lack of infrastructure was slowing the growth in the Philippine casino business, “especially the foreign players,” Razon said. With the Duterte administration’s plans for an infrastructure build-out, business prospects for the sector could potentially improve.