The man behind the soon to open US$2.4 billion Okada Manila, Japanese pachinko tycoon Kazuo Okada, is looking to expand beyond Pagcor’s Entertainment City in the Philippines.
In an interview on ABS-CBN television that aired Wednesday, Okada said he wants to make the Philippines “the next Hawaii” and is exploring the possibility of opening resorts on the Philippine tourist attraction islands of Palawan and Boracay.
“I would like to make the Philippines the next Hawaii, given that there are a lot of great beaches here,” said Okada who sees the potential to tap into a growing tourism market originating with a rising middle class in China.
“China, Beijing, the air is polluted and I feel there are people (there) who would want to get away, go to a fresh place and I think the Philippines would be one of the best tourist spots for everybody,” he told the program’s host through a translator, according to a report on Channel News Asia.
Okada is not the first to envision developing outlying popular tourist destinations. The Sino-America Gaming Investment Group LLC and Macau Resources Group Ltd. announced in August they were seeking approvals from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) in hopes of breaking ground in January 2017 on a project called, ‘Mactan Leisure City’.
Previously, Sino-American Gaming had indicated interest not only in Cebu but also in the island of Napayawan for a combined US$1 billion investment. At that time, a Pagcor licensing VP was reported to have said, “For areas outside of metro Manila, especially in underserved areas, the chances of looking into a casino licence would be higher than in Manila.”
Although Wednesday’s report on Okada’s most recent interests didn’t specify plans for a casino component to the resorts, Pagcor’s previous statements may indicate a good possibility of casino development.
In July it was reported that Mr. Okada met with President of the Philippines, Rodrigo R. Duterte, at the Malacañan Palace and expressed his interest of investing heavily into the Philippines to promote tourism within the country. His business partner in Manila and land-owner at Okada Manila, Antonio O. “Tony Boy” Cojuangco, expressed then that Okada wanted to get involved with projects outside the gaming industry and develop golf courses, new resorts and other tourism related projects during the next couple of years. One of the key projects that Okada would like to get involved with is building new international airports in the Philippines.
The Japanese tycoon wants to build new airports in Davao, Palawan as he believes that the opportunity to have first contact with foreign tourists visiting the Philippines is extremely important as it would allow Tiger Resorts to effectively market their properties in the Philippines and bring in more visitors.
In a statement, Steve Wolstenholme, the president of Tiger Resorts said “There would be opportunity to have connectivity so people when they come on business to Manila, they can also have connectivity to experience some of the natural wonders that are already quite spectacular.”
Okada’s Manila development on the bay in Parañaque is one of four planned for the special zone, the be followed by Westside City and was preceded by Solaire and City of Dreams Manila.
Okada Manila will employ between 8,000 and 10,000 people when it opens in earnest sometime in the first quarter of 2017.
This article has been updated to include Mr. Okada’s interest in Palawan as reported in July.