Booming Philippines looks forward to new events era

Flourishing economy and robust pipeline of hotels and major infrastructure projects are boosting the destination's confidence in MICE.

Tourism Promotions Board executives expressed optimism for the Philippines' MICE sector at the recent MICECON event held in Davao, Mindanao.
Tourism Promotions Board executives expressed optimism for the Philippines' MICE sector at the recent MICECON event held in Davao, Mindanao. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/kieferpix

Last year, the Philippines’ GDP recorded its fastest GDP growth (7.6%) in over four decades, and its events industry is seeking to benefit from what independent business analysts have described as a “resurgence of in-person events”.

A recent report, ‘Riding the Momentum’ by property specialist Colliers Philippines, notes that hotel occupancy rose dramatically as the country put aside pandemic restrictions, rising from 20% in 2020 to 44% in 2021 and then 51% in 2022. The analysts noted that a key factor was “the surge in MICE activities”.

The research report says: “In 2023, we project average hotel occupancy in Metro Manila to breach 60% due to the influx of more foreign visitors and continued growth from the local staycation market. We also see the resurgence of in-person events lifting the demand for MICE facilities and business hotels.”

These projections would appear to bolster the confidence expressed by leading figures in the country’s tourism industry and MICE sector.

Maria Margarita Montemayor Nograles, COO of Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), speaking at the recent MICECON event, the country’s premier meetings and incentives industry gathering held in Davao, Mindanao, said: “We speak of creating legacy as the MICE industry is crucial in contributing to the economic growth of both global and local economies creating employment opportunities and building the country's reputation.

"Our industry offers a diverse range of opportunities and experiences each of them unique and creative. This emphasises the importance of knowledge and expertise and best practices in an industry that is rapidly evolving."

The TPB is also celebrating Manila's successful bid as the host of Rotary International's annual convention in June 2028, which is set to bring in 25,000 participants from across the world.

Arnold Gonzales, head of the TPB’s MICE department, said the board had extended support to the key stakeholders to help win the bid. He also said there was a renewed focus on corporate incentives. “The Philippines is basically an excellent incentive destination and Filipinos are very creative in incentive programmes, although, of course, we are promoting the Philippines as a general MICE destination. However, the new trend is going for smaller meetings.”

The Philippines already offers organisers tremendous value for money in accommodation bookings and the projected figure of 60% occupancy allows reasonable leeway for negotiation. Even better news are on the horizon, with major international hotel brands expanding and adding substantially new inventory for rooms and event spaces in the country.

Accor, the leading international operator in the Philippines with 10 hotels, resorts and branded residences, currently has a projected pipeline of 16 hotels scheduled to open within the next five years. The hotel chain recently announced a second MGallery property at the South Palms Resort Panglao Bohol, due to open next year.

Longer term, the major game changer for the country is the projected opening of New Manila International Airport in 2027. The new airport located in Bulacan province, 35km north of the capital, will be built with dedicated transport links to Metro Manila and beyond.

The new Bulacan airport will have a fully annual operational capacity of 200 million passengers and four runways. The existing Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), on the other hand, has only two runways and its four terminals handled around 66 million departures in 2022. 

Gonzales believes these infrastructure developments, particularly hotels and airports, will underpin the Philippines MICE sector’s potential growth.