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Does the Philippines give a crap about being ranked so low?

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Well, here we go again. It has been a number of years since I’ve really addressed this topic, but I think now is a good time to look at it again.

What I am talking about is tourism and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Tagalog Buddy

Recently, the Matador Network came out with a new report, “The Seven Most Frustrating Airports around the World.” Once again, as is normal the Philippines ranked near the top of the list. Being on the top of the list is usually a good thing, but not when it means you’re one of the top worst in the world. Unfortunately, this is a recurring theme, NAIA is almost always ranked in this position or even worse. Problem is, a lot of the problems that they get dinged for our recurring year after year, and never fixed. When will it change?

Over the years, the Philippines has openly stated that they wanted to increase the number of tourists in the country. They would always set goals of how many entries into the country they wanted to achieve in the coming years, but they never achieved any of those goals. Funny thing is, it has been many years since I have even seen them striving for these kinds of increases. I don’t remember, but I would say it has been more than five years, perhaps more than that since I have seen them openly promoting goals of increasing tourism here. I have seen many improvements in the Philippines, and I openly talk about those, but tourism is not among those positive changes. In fact, I would almost have to argue that things have only gotten worse.

#3 Most Frustrating Airport

NAIA

Does this look world-class?

In this latest report the Philippines international Airport, NAIA, ranks as the number three Most frustrating in the world.

The number one most frustrating Airport in the world is Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Number two is LaGuardia Airport in New York City. While it must be embarrassing to be on this list at all, I think it is more harmful to the Philippines even though they aren’t ranked as bad as those two airports. The reason is, millions of people will go to France and to the United States even if these airports are ranked poorly. There are not a lot of reasons to bring a mass of foreigners to the Philippines. Most of those who come here have family ties or are looking to establish a family (or just get a girlfriend) with a Filipina. There are some people, although a limited number, who do come here for vacation, beaches, and that sort of thing. But, it would be my view that there would be a lot of people who would forgo a trip to the Philippines based on the fact that the airport is constantly listed as being very poor.

There are a lot of countries in the world with great beaches, and it would not be hard to find such a place that would make travel convenient.

The Philippines Is Probably Worse Than Listed

The Philippines being number three on the list is probably a better ranking than they should have gotten. The reason for this is because so few foreigners travel through the Philippines. The majority of the people who use NAIA are actually Filipinos themselves. Filipinos rarely complain, they prefer to remain silent, even if they are outraged by the conditions.

When foreigners see these poor rankings, they just change their minds and decide not to come. With few foreigners coming through, the number of complaints is probably lower than it should be. Generally, foreigners feel more free about complaining when they feel that it is warranted.

The Competition

Incheon.International.Airport

Incheon.International.Airport

The truth is, many airports around Asia are considered some of the best airports in the world. I would point to two particular airports which are always ranking in the top spots of the best airports in the world:

  • Changi Airport in Singapore
  • Inchron International Airport in South Korea

With the Philippines continually ranking near the bottom, it is hard to compete with their neighbors here. It only makes things worse for the Philippines.

Time for a Big Change

Currently, at NAIA Terminal 2, they are undergoing a renovation. Is that really a wise thing? Yes, when conditions are so poor, it would seem that a renovation would be in order. However, I wonder about that.

With things so bad, I would almost have to say that instead of doing renovations, it is time to start planning and building a completely new airport. One big problem at NAIA is that the terminals are far from each other, transportation between terminals is poor, and the conditions are so bad that the renovation is probably not adequate. If you wanted to strive a world-class airport, it is time to abandon NAIA, choose a new location, and start building something that truly is world-class. In my opinion, nothing short of that will do the trick.

What about the Cost?

Airports earn money!

The Philippines is a poor country, wouldn’t the cost be too much?

Well, I would argue that airports don’t cost money, they make money.

Firstly, airports bring in a lot of taxes. Every flight that lands or takes off has to pay a tax. There are terminal taxes. The Philippines has a travel tax for all citizens and permanent residents. If you make the airport a pleasant place, more people will travel, and that will lead to the generation of more income for the government. This extra travel could easily help pay the cost of building a new airport.

However, even more than the actual generation of income in the airport, the big moneymaker will be tourism. Right now, Boracay has been shut down, in an effort to revamp the place, clean it up, and make it even more friendly for tourism. So, they are making it better. There are many other places in the Philippines that could be developed is excellent beach areas, and there are other reasons for tourism besides beaches that could be developed. Imagine the increase in tourists that would come to these places if there were better transportation options and more comfortable and inviting airports. The income generated in the country through increased tourism would make the cost of building a new international airport worthwhile.

Step up to the plate Philippines!

I have been living here for more than 18 years, and attracting increased tourism has been talked about ever since then, and probably before (although less in recent years as I have noted). Do something about it, take steps that will actually make it happen. The time is now.

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Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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BC57
BC57
4 years ago

You all know that saying, talk is cheap! I’m moving to the PH from the U.S. later this year as my wife is from the PH. I have a lot of mixed emotions about moving there. The PH is like a nice looking gifted wrapped package on the outside but once you look on the inside it is a total mess that just keeps on going year after year with no improvement at all. Just like the one you just pointed out.

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  BC57

I love living here in the Philippines. There are things that are bad, but there has been a HUGE amount of improvement over the years I have lived here. The airport situation is not one of them, though. LOL

Byron Watts
4 years ago

On my recent trip I flew into Cebu City rather than Manila. I previously hadn’t realized Cebu was an option and was trying to fly direct to Davao City. Cebu airport can be reached from a fairly large number of international airports and the tickets into Cebu are a little cheaper than flying into Manila. It also turns out that flying in to Cebu City and then going to other places in the Philippines (besides Manila and Luzon island) is cheaper from Cebu. It turns out that flying from Cebu to Davao is shorted and cheaper than flying to Davao… Read more »

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Byron Watts

Hi Bryon,

Thanks for sharing your tips.

Byron Watts
4 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

Happy to. I missed out on Davao this trip. Hopefully next time.

PapaDuck
PapaDuck
4 years ago
Reply to  Byron Watts

Byron,
Only if you live in the Visayas or Mindanao!

Byron Watts
4 years ago
Reply to  PapaDuck

Soon

Jim
Jim
4 years ago
Reply to  Byron Watts

Flying into Cebu has been 1000 times better experience for me than Manila–I agree they need to start over from scratch –there is no fixing that mess

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Jim

I have also liked flying into Cebu.

Bob New York
Bob New York
4 years ago

In my 13 visits over a period of 10 years I have not encountered too much of a problem going through NAIA. For me, the biggest hurdle is getting from one terminal to the other so it is a good idea to leave plenty of time if you are catching a connecting flight to your destination. Having to use the crowded city streets which are normally at a near stand still condition can bring on a degree of frustration. Air conditioning in Terminal 1 has improved over the years and passing through it on arrival has not been too much… Read more »

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Bob New York

Hi Bob, thank you for sharing your experiences. I hear a lot of complaints from travelers, but I am glad that your experience has been more or less OK.

bruce fitz
bruce fitz
4 years ago

Hi BOb , I agree with everything you say , the airport sucks, plain and simple . Just got back from Palawan , wow what a paradise, I could live there easily , Great limestone cliffe, excellent suba an snorkeling , beautifu mountains , Got to see the gaint clams, wow so good . still searching for g/f so far all I have met were scammers and believe me , they are plenty , It is what it is , best couple years of my life

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  bruce fitz

Hope you enjoyed your trip, Burce! Yeah, the airport needs majore changes!

Mike
Mike
4 years ago

I agree that a good entry point (i.e. airport) is essential not to deter tourists – but I have been on two international/domestic flights at NAIA and not really found anything a problem (having said that, I have not been through other airports enough to be able to make a comparison). But if I could put myself into ‘tourist mode’ I think I would be put off from returning by the state of the environment, i.e. rubbish, smells and air pollution. Reducing rubbish on the streets and beaches would not cost much money – it is a shift in the… Read more »

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Given that NAIA consistently ranks at the bottom of all of these surveys, I feel there has to be truth in it. I find it substandard myself, but so many others find it that way and have for years, that has to have a basis in truth.

The environmental things that you mention are, of course, a bad thing too, and push away tourists, but that is another subject. Perhaps that is one that I will talk about soon.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Don
Don
4 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

I totally agree with you there Bob. It would be good if they did decide to revamp the airport and while they are at it clean out the thieving, dishonest taxi drivers. I have never had a problem with Taxi’s overcharging in Cebu or Davao. Many of Manila’s airport taxi drivers are known to be among the worlds most dishonest.

OB
OB
4 years ago

Hi Bob, I’ve flown all around the world (England, Korea, Japan, Philippines, and numerous places in the US), but not much since 1996, until 2014 when I visited the Philippines for the first time since I left Clark AB in 1989. I’ve not been to Paris, but they got New York spot on. Terrible place in my opinion. In 2014 we flew into/out of Terminal 1 and it just had the feeling of “old”. In 2016, after I started my early (55yrs old at the time) retirement, we flew into Terminal 1. We started building our home in the province… Read more »

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  OB

Hi OB. Thanks for sharing your experience.

I remember when they first opened terminal 3, that was a bit of a fiasco, but it did improve.

Peter Fitzgerald
4 years ago

In recent years, they’ve done a lot of work to make NAIA clean and modern. It’s a nice looking facility, and flying in and out these days is a less annoying process than it was years ago. But the great expenditure of cash in recent years was, in my opinion, misdirected. I like the pleasant new cafes and shops and the more efficient security screening, but the most pressing problem – passenger throughput – wasn’t addressed. Both ends of the flight – the check-in and Immigration – are not fun. To be fair, immigration processing is tiring in most airports.… Read more »

Bob Martin
4 years ago

The reason that there are online reviews is that tourists look at them. LOL

Peter Fitzgerald
4 years ago
Reply to  Bob Martin

If someone wants to see the Eiffel Tower, they are not going to be discouraged by a bunch of negative reviews of DeGaulle airport. People write reviews because they a) had a bad experience, or b) because they want to feel relevant. A worthwhile review is one that cites specific problems to be aware of, not one’s personal experience on one particular trip. The tendency is for dissatisfied travelers to vent, while happy travelers are less likely to post a review. We have to take reviews with a large grain of salt.

Bob Martin
4 years ago

I spoke about this exact point in the article.

Luke Tynan
Luke Tynan
4 years ago

Bob, I am surprised that the Airport in Manila is listed 3rd. after Paris and New York. What surprises me is that I have flown into Hong Kong and LAX and find both those much worse than Manila for so many reasons and 1 of the Airports in Chicago also worse than here and that is just mentioning the majors not talking about some of the smaller airports around the US that are nightmares to find your way, let alone get your luggage or find something to eat. I just find it curious is all.

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Luke Tynan

Hi Luke. LAX and Chicago are consistently listed at the bottom of such surveys as well.

PapaDuck
PapaDuck
4 years ago

Bob,
They have done some renovations in Terminal 1 over the last couple of years and I’ve noticed the difference. Apparently it was not enough to elevate it. It’s much easier getting to and from the airport and around the different terminals as they have built an expressway connecting all the terminals. I have heard rumors in the past about building a new airport near Cavite City, Cavite.

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  PapaDuck

I think it is time to start fresh, but that is just my view. 🙂

Jeff Jenks
Jeff Jenks
4 years ago

The location of NAIA is ideal, central city. The interconnection between terminals must be improved to 24 hour free bus connection.

Philippine international tourism must be improved by worldwide wholesalers offering seamless air, transfer, hotel and tour packages at reasonable prices, similar to options for nearby Japan, China, Thailand, Singapore, India. Until that is done most of the Philippines will not be experienced by the curious American or European traveler, unless they have a Filipino/a friend.

At the same time too many foreign tourists could compete with local tourists creating overpricing of hotels and destinations.

Bob Martin
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Jenks

The only reason I say to move the airport is because that is the only way to start from scratch.

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