The Philippines isn’t exactly in the good graces of Taiwan these days after the unfortunate death of an unarmed Taiwanese fisherman a few weeks ago, an incident that Taiwan has placed squarely on the shoulders of the Philippines. The tension between the two countries is palpable and if no resolution is made sooner than later, you could see far-reaching effects on visitation to the Philippines. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but make no mistake, Taiwan’s decision to ban its citizens from traveling to the Philippines will have an effect on tourism, and in this particular case, visitation to the country’s casinos.
This is a particularly big deal because Taiwan nationals account for a significant number of all the foreign tourists that go to Philippine shores. Last year, 216,000 Taiwanese nationals visited the Philippines, accounting for the fifth largest incoming market for the country. With the country issuing the highest-level travel warning on the Philippines in its four-tier advisory system, the question now is will this cause Taiwan visitation numbers to drop in the Philippines?
Grant Govertsen, a Macau-based analyst with Union Gaming, seems to think so. Talking to Gambling Compliance’s Marvin Williams, Govertsen said: “Although this incident is just one of many that have arisen due to ongoing territorial disputes between any number of Asian countries, we believe that such incidents can have a material negative impact on visitation.”
And as what has been established in the past, the Philippines’ gambling industry is predominantly catered to attract foreigners from neighboring countries, including that of Taiwan. With this travel ban issued on the Philippines, it would appear to be naive to think that there won’t be a negative impact on how the casinos in the country fair without any Taiwanese players playing in it. Because in the end, the tensions between the two countries isn’t just contained between Taiwan and the Philippines. Equally alarming is China, which claims Taiwanese nationals and territory as its own. It’s bad enough that the Philippines has its own territorial issues with China, but considering the way it treats Taiwan as a little brother, it wasn’t all that surprising to see the country take the side of Taiwan and condemn the Philippines for its reckless use of force on an unarmed Taiwanese fisherman.
Global Times, a Chinese news website, even ran an editorial calling for unity among the Chinese society, urging citizens from the mainland, as well as people from Hong Kong and Macau to join in the condemnation of the “provocative Philippines”.
“We call on people in Hong Kong and Macao to join this joint action against the Philippines. This will make a special contribution to both protection of sovereignty and social solidarity among the Chinese people,” the Global Times added.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time in the past few years that a Chinese society has ordered its citizens to stay away from the Philippines. Back in 2010, eight Hong Kong tourists died after incompetent local authorities completely mishandled a rescue operation of a hostage situation in Manila wherein a busload of Hong Kong tourists were held at gunpoint by renegade cop. That disaster compelled Hong Kong to blacklist the Philippines as a tourist destination, a status that has yet to change almost three years after that unfathomable incident.
It’s really hard to make a guesstimate on how this issue between Taiwan and the Philippines will be resolved. What does look apparent is that tourism to the Philippines will take a hit, which could then lead to a drop in foreign casino players coming to the Philippines from these countries. How long and by how much are the important questions. And though your guess is really as good as ours, we won’t be surprised if this drags on longer than anybody anticipates, which in turn could have a negative effect on upcoming gambling revenues in the Philippines.