The Philippines received just over 3.34 million foreign visitors in the first eight months of this year, already surpassing the 2.65 million welcomed for the whole of 2022, according to data released by the country’s Department of Tourism.
The country’s casino industry has been recording a strong recovery in gross gaming revenue (GGR) since the Philippines eased pandemic-related restrictions in the first half of 2022, aided by domestic demand as well as inbound tourism.
The Philippine casino sector could generate GGR equal to “US$5.2 billion to US$5.9 billion” for the full-year 2023, said last month industry consultancy GCG Gaming Advisory Services Pty Ltd.
Were the actual 2023 figure to be within that range, it should exceed the pre-pandemic year of 2019, which produced the equivalent of US$4.84 billion.
The largest-single market for inbound visitors in the calendar year to August 31 this year was South Korea, which had also led the market during the first half. South Koreans accounted in the period up to August 31 for 942,637 arrivals, or 25.8 percent of the total so far in 2023.
According to comments by gaming industry representatives, South Korea is currently the top source market for Philippine casinos in terms of foreign players.
The United States was placed second in the first eight months of this year in terms of largest-individual markets for inbound visitors to the Philippines, with 632,687 arrivals, or 17.3 percent. Visitors from Japan were in distant third spot, with 195,134, or 5.3 percent of the aggregate.
Tourists from China accounted for 174,328, or 4.8 percent. That was still proportionally a big improvement on the only 39,627 arrivals from mainland China in the February to December period of 2022, a time when China still had in place extensive controls on outbound and inbound travel as part of that country’s Covid-19 countermeasures.
In July this year, the Philippine authorities announced a pilot programme for the country’s electronic visa system, starting in late August and commencing with visas for Chinese visitors.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine e-Visa would allow foreign nationals entering the country for tourism or business to apply for temporary visitors’ visas online.
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”The Philippines has been the primary growth driver, but really the broader Asian gaming industry is something that’s really important to us”
Chief executive of casino equipment provider Light & Wonder