Govt execs play down impact on tourism of Marawi crisis, Resorts World carnage

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RWM torching gaming table
Surveillance video image of Jessie Javier Carlos torching a gaming table at the casino of the Resorts World Manila.

MANILA, Philippines — While acknowledging that the continuing crisis in Marawi City, the subsequent declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and last week’s carnage at Resorts World Manila have had an impact on tourism, government officials maintain this is “temporary in nature” and “we can still reach targets.”

“We understand (the) initial reactions to this but we are confident that as soon as we project a business as usual (posture) and communicate what we do to deter threats, we can still reach targets,” Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre said.

Alegre acknowledged flight rebookings and “are happy airlines (have agreed) to waive rebooking fees.”

“We are now working with hotel(s)” on cancellation fees, he added.

The Department of Tourism has projected 7 million tourist arrivals this year while it expects domestic traveler numbers to hit 69-70 million based on a first quarter pick-up of nearly 12 percent.

“Somehow when people feel there are tighter security measures,” he said, this would dispel apprehensions about visiting the country.

Eventually, Alegre said, “this decision to make Mindanao safer will boost tourism.”

South Korea remains the top visitor market and the DOT is sending a delegation there to ease concerns over the security situation, the Tourism official said.

Special missions will also be sent to Japan.

Following the Resorts World incident, where former Department of Finance employee Jessie Javier Carlos went on a rampage, setting of a fire that killed 37 people before taking his own life, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo ordered a review of security protocols at tourist facilities and to highlight security awareness and preparedness in training those working in the tourism sector, Alegre said.

And with gaming one of the attractions being offered to tourists, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation is also reviewing the security aspect of the Resorts World attack.

Despite the incident, Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo says the gaming industry will likely hit this year’s target revenue of P160 billion.

Noting that regulars of Resorts World Manila are heading to other casinos, Domingo said this means the impact of last week’s incident on Pagcor’s income will also be limited.

At the same time, she said, because the casino business in the country remains relatively young, a moratorium has been set on new casinos in Metro Manila.

She said a Las Vegas-based casino had recently applied to operate here but was turned down because “we have to consult (other) players” who have asked, through a position paper, that the local gaming industry be given enough time to “mature.”

Domingo said there is also a pending application for a casino in Cebu.