Manila was once the most popular first-time overseas destination for Hong Kong tourists because of the short flight and low cost, until it was overtaken by Bangkok and Taipei. But with integrated resorts among the tourist facilities under development, the city is expected to gain renewed interest as a tourist destination.
Manila, capital of the Philippines, is one of the 17 cities that make up Metro Manila. It has an inhabited area of about 38.55 square kilometres and a population of about 1.7 million.
In a country where English is an official language and about 80 per cent of the population are Catholic, Manila is one of the most 'Westernised' cities in Asia. Its long colonial past (the Philippines had been a Spanish colony for more than 300 years before it was purchased and ruled by the United States for about 40 years) has been well preserved and co-exists with modern buildings. Major heritage attractions in the city include Fort Santiago, a Spanish fortress looking out on the sea; the Rizal Shrine inside the fort; Malacanang Palace and Manila Cathedral.
Manila is also the principal gateway to the country's cities and beach resorts known for their white sands and crystal clear water, such as Boracay, Bohol and Cebu. Many foreign visitors would combine a visit to Manila with a trip to popular beach resorts.
The city centre of Manila is dotted with shopping arcades, restaurants, bars, designer boutiques and outlets. It is also known for its nightlife with nightclubs, dance clubs, bars and casinos.
A new wave of integrated resorts, spearheaded by Resorts World Manila's opening in August 2009, is expected to make Manila more attractive as a tourist destination. These integrated resorts provide leisure and entertainment attractions housed within one complex. Unlike existing gaming facilities, these integrated resorts are operated by the private sector and are targeted more at tourists.
Four more integrated resorts are expected to open in the next few years at Entertainment City Manila, a Las Vegas-style gaming and entertainment area being built in the reclamation area on the west side of Roxas Boulevard. This ambitious project is undertaken by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, the government-owned company that regulates and runs casinos in the country. When completed, the project is expected to provide about 8,000 hotel rooms, bringing in one million visitors a year.