Positioned as a ‘rising star’ in the business events sector, the Philippines’ appeal as a MICE destination is now under threat following last week’s Resorts World Manila (RWM) attack and a series of terror-related incidents in recent months.

Event planners and DMCs have expressed safety and security concerns following the RWM attack, which claimed 38 lives, but the Philippine Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) remains confident the MICE industry will stay strong.

Speaking to CEI Asia, a TPB spokesperson said: “We are very resilient and this is not the first time something like this has happened in Manila.

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“While it’s too soon to comment on the impact on the MICE industry, we remain hopeful. This is a very unfortunate event and RWM will need to be more vigilant in terms of security, but there are several other MICE venues in Manila.”

Deemed a botched robbery attempt by Philippine officials, the incident occurred last Friday after a lone gunman stormed the casino complex, firing shots from an assault rifle and setting fire to gambling tables.

“This is not the only incident that has taken place recently in this part of the world and it’s not a terror threat, so we’re confident the industry will bounce back,” the spokesperson said.

Event planners, however, are not so confident.

Pacific World’s destination manager in the Philippines, Carla Mariano, says the RWM incident is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events affecting business.

“All incidents greatly affect MICE and tourism as whole,” she says, “We are receiving lots of messages and emails from clients who have deeply expressed concerns regarding safety and security.”

“Most corporate bookings are set for Q3 and later this year so while we haven’t received any cancellations, many clients are considering postponing their events,” Mariano says.

Police the venue shortly after the attack (Source: AP)

For BI Worldwide’s Marine Debatte, head of events solutions Asia Pacific and Japan, the escalating violence in the Philippines means the destination is a no-go.

“The Philippines unfortunately doesn’t have a good reputation for groups. Single travellers seem to be OK but corporations are very cautious, especially groups with a large female delegation.

“The Philippines is such a wonderful destination with great resorts and so much to offer, plus real value for money, but this latest incident will not help us sell the destination in the near future. We’ve tried to push it quite a bit in the past year, but security is always an issue among clients. As planners, this is one argument you cannot contradict,” Debatte says.

Resorts World Manila has also been criticised for failing to implement a security plan.

An inquiry into the attack is currently taking place at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, just across from the casino, where committees on games and amusement, tourism, and public order and safety are questioning why only one security guard was posted at the entrance of RWM at the time of the attack.

The question of venue security standards remains a key concern for planners.

Debatte says: “As planners, there is only so much we can do to ensure that our venues and hotels are ready. We ask the right questions, fill in inspection reports, and request security details and updates. We prepare ourselves for the worst, but ultimately, venues have to uphold their end of the bargain.”