There have been rumors that Disneyland has been in talks about setting up a theme park in the Philippines for the longest time. And while the first time filled me with excitement, my reaction to this umpteenth time was something like, “yeah, right.”
However, now that I've completed my trips to Universal Studios in Singapore and Disneyland in Hong Kong, I couldn't help but put slightly more thought in to it. And the result of those thoughts are this SWOT Analysis on whether a theme park should be opened in the Philippines.
Before I discuss the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, I must note that this isn't a comprehensive study. It's merely a collections of quick thoughts on the topic.
I would like to state that all the strengths found here operate on the premise that people will only patronize Disneyland or Universal Studios for a day or two, leaving them free to do other things. Some of these strengths complement theme parks by giving visitors additional reasons to come here.
The biggest thing that the Philippines has going for it is the large pool of people who speak English. And even before the country surpassed India to become the largest BPO, or Business Process Outsourcing, country in the world, Filipinos spoke English much better than other countries.
What BPO training brought to the country was the ability to modify people's accents. As a result, Filipinos who have worked in call centers can speak English with a distinctive American twang or in a British or Australian accent that can sometimes be impossible to differentiate by people.
And since a many of the world's population can understand English as opposed to any other Asian language, the experience should be a much more pleasant one for foreign tourists.
I addition to being able to speak English, many Filipinos are very hard working. Regular office jobs are usually from 8:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the afternoon and cover Monday to Friday. Compared to other country's 9 to 5 working hours, that's an extra 5 hours of work per week, excluding overtime.
Filipinos are also natural-born salesmen. Talk to anyone and many will tell you they have some side-business that involves selling something. Whether it is underwear, bags, beauty products, and even mobile phones, chances are they would have had some experience at selling.
[Even I, my family, and many of my friends have been involved in selling one thing or another over the years.]
Many can also be counted on to go the extra mile for customers to make their customers happy and build a working relationship with them.
[For those of you who disagree with me on this, I suggest taking a trip to other countries before passing judgment on Filipinos here.]
In addition to this, many Filipinos have been bitten by the entertainment bug. Almost everyone can carry a tune, quite a lot play instruments, there are also a ton of actors, actresses, and dancers around. With all this talent, the Philippines has one of the largest number of local television and radio stations in Asia.
Finally, Filipinos are very well mannered. They say “Excuse me” when they need to call people's attention and they say” Sorry” when they are at fault. They also do not purposely get in the way of people taking pictures, and they give people who are walking or lining up their own personal space.
The current exchange rate of about PhP 45 to USD 1 has made everything cheaper in the Philippines and that means that tourists can do much more here.
In my last trip abroad, I had hoped to buy a ton of clothes, shoes, and electronic equipment for family and friends. But in spite my going to all the recommended shopping places, including street bazaars and far flung stores, I was surprised to learn that majority of of things being sold abroad were a lot cheaper in the Philippines.
It didn't matter if prices were knocked down by as much as 50%, all it takes is a 20% reduction here and prices would more or less be even.
[So for all my friends, you now know the reason was not due to the laziness.]
Things only became competitive when the discounts abroad hit around 70%. However, this was extremely rare because it wasn't sale season yet.
[We only found one bag and a pair of shoes in some obscure store offering cheaper prices.]
Finally, thanks to globalization, many things that are sold in other countries can be already be found here.
When the Philippines says it has malls, it means that it has MALLS. These are not like the small selling spaces that look more like tiny apartments in other countries, we are talking about sprawling multistory buildings that are the equivalent of several city blocks. Not only are they wide, they are tall too.
And each mall has stores which are also much bigger in size that those abroad. This means that customers never have to feel like they are stuck in the tight lavatory of a small plane when shopping; they can walk around and look at the merchandise without feeling like someone is rubbing against them.
In addition to this, the shopping hours during the non-Christmas season is typically from 10 in the morning to 9 in the evening. When the Christmas season arrives, stores extend their hours by opening even earlier and closing much later. That means that tourists who are visiting relatives working here can meet up at malls to shop or watch the latest 3-D movie after visiting Disneyland or Universal Studios.
In addition to the huge number malls, the Philippines has a ton of beaches. With 7,107 islands during low tide, there will be a beach for everyone. Boracay continues to be a favorite with its powdered sand, Siargao offers some of the best waves for surfers, and nature lovers who still want creature comforts can enjoy Palawan.
[Just in case you're wondering, some of those islands disappear when they become submerged during high tide.]
So after visiting theme parks for the first couple of days, visitors can do their shopping for the next three days, and reserve their remaining time for days at the beach.
While other countries advertise their being a melting pot for food, I have found it difficult to find dishes made by other countries in them. Being a country that puts taste over everything else, tourists should be able to find something that appeals to their taste in the Philippines.
Typically, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Singaporean food can be found in malls all over the country. Specialty food like those coming from Germany, Switzerland, and other European Countries may be found a few blocks away from the malls withing Metro Manila.
[Being exposed to so much food means that restaurants with inferior tasting food don't last very long; people can tell which these are by their lack of customers.]
And if Disneyland or Universal Studios will be patronizing local chefs, visitors can look forward to a gastronomic delight when inside the theme park grounds.
For tourists who still have a lot of energy after visiting a theme park, the Philippines has a very rich night life with bars and entertainment places scattered around major cities. In addition to this, the Filipino's love for music means that finding a live band or a Karaoke machine is as easy as walking to the next bar or restaurant.
Hand in hand with the nightlife are night markets where people can purchase items in the coolness of the night. Places like Green Hills usually have seasonal night markets so people coming from a theme park don't have to be bored in their hotels at night.
Banchettos, or night banquets have also been gaining popularity lately. Often times, areas like the Ayala Center in Makati and the Ortigas Center in Pasig will close down parking lots or entire streets on Friday nights to accommodate rows of food stalls.
And since the rent tends to be lower compared to a mall or building, a lot of very good food can be bought here as chefs don't need to scrimp on their ingredients. This can be the perfect place for tourists looking to sample some of the more exotic dishes, but want to have several stalls offering them comfort food after a long day.
As the Philippines has been under Spanish rule for at least 400 years, the country still has a multitude of old houses to see. Places like Vigan and Las Casas de Acusar have houses that tourists can actually rent for the night.
So after spending a night or two in cartoon-style houses in Disneyland or Universal Studios, they can get to enjoy the real thing in houses that are anywhere from 150 to 400 years old.
[Not to mention, some of them may be haunted by their old owners so people shouldn't wonder what that bump in the night is all about.]
There is still a lot of unallocated space where theme parks can be set up. One option is to put it up along the North or South Luzon Expressways. However, from what I have experienced with Disneyland in the United States, doing this can cause a bottleneck of traffic on the highway.
A better option would be to push it further up North to places like near Clark Air Force Base or Subic Naval Base. The roads leading to these places are well developed and should be able to handle the increased flow of traffic. In addition to this, a popular theme park like Disneyland or Universal Studios here means that traffic can be better managed because addition roads and other infrastructure can be built.
Between the two, Subic Naval Base may be a better option because it has the facilities for three types of transport. It has an international airport for people directly flying in from their countries. It has a port for people who prefer to take a ferry from Manila and other parts of the country. And it has wide enough roads to handle vehicular traffic.
Subic also has other activities, like the Jungle Safari, a zip line, Jungle survival training, the Ocean Adventure Park, as well as a small beach area.
The only thing that builders need to be aware of is that there is a rich ecology in Subic Naval Base, so the impact of a theme park on Mother Nature needs to be thoroughly studied.
On the other hand, Clark Air Force Base has more horizontal space, which may make it a bit easier for construction. Parking lots and trams may be easier to build here. The terrain may also make it easier to expand the park in the future
Clark is also the staging ground for the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival that attracts thousands of viewers.
Another benefit of building a theme park in the province is that is will be closer to farms, which should translate in to cheaper food ingredients.
Summary of Strengths
- Majority of the Philippine population speaks English, with some including the accents.
- The people in the Philippines are better at providing service.
- Many of the people in the Philippines are natural-born sellers.
- The current exchange rate makes everything cheaper in the Philippines.
- The large number of big malls complements theme parks.
- The huge number of beaches means that there is more than one reason to visit the country.
- A great night life with bars, bands, and shopping.
- A bigger choice of food right within the malls.
- Other attractions that go back hundreds of years in to the Philippines' Spanish colonial past.
- There are several big locations to choose from, and expansion should be easier because places outside Metro Manila aren’t crowded yet.
- The roads in certain parts of the province should be able to handle the load of visitors going to theme parts.
Over the top of my head, there are a lot of good reasons to set up Disneyland or Universal Studios here. Much of what the Philippines has to offer would actually complement them. And with more reasons for tourists to come back, everybody, and not just the theme parks, win.
Articles in this Series
- SWOT Analysis for Disneyland or Universal Studios in the Philippines, Part 1 – Strengths
- SWOT Analysis for Disneyland or Universal Studios in the Philippines, Part 2 – Weaknesses
- SWOT Analysis for Disneyland or Universal Studios in the Philippines, Part 3 – Opportunities
- SWOT Analysis for Disneyland or Universal Studios in the Philippines, Part 4 – Threats
- SWOT Analysis for Disneyland or Universal Studios in the Philippines, Part 5 – Conclusion