It's More Fun in the Philippines: Boosting Philippine Tourism through Soccer
A significant number of Filipinos plays soccer, but the sport doesn't have a large profile in the country. There are provincial hotbeds for the sport but its national profile hasn't been as huge as basketball. That is until the Philippine Azkals (moniker of the Philippine National Football Team for Men) burst into the scene in December 2010. The Azkals, Filipino slang for mutts or street dogs, first shot to fame when they reached the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki World Cup, where they defeated defending champion Vietnam and drew with Singapore , another soccer powerhouse in the region. This victory made soccer interesting to Filipinos again.
Soon enough, the Azkals were trending on Twitter and other social networking sites, especially as they proceeded to play in other international soccer matches in 2011, achieving such historical milestones as reaching the second round of World Cup qualifying and qualifying for the AFC Challenge Cup in March this year.
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Soccer Fever and Its Effects on Local and International Tourism
With the rising popularity, marketability and profile of Philippine soccer, hundreds of Azkals fans are more than willing to travel around the country just so they can watch their favourite soccer players play and support our national team. This new phenomenon could drive local tourism up, especially during the soccer season if the Azkals get to fly from one stadium to the next for games and practice matches.
In their first leg match against Mongolia (AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers) at the Panaad stadium in Bacolod, people from Metro Manila and nearby provinces flocked to Bacolod to watch that match. While 10,000 tickets were given free, the local economy got a boost from all those out of town Azkals supporters arriving. When supporters go to a match, they don’t just watch the game, they purchase plane, ferry and bus tickets. They buy food and a number stay in hotels, inns or hostels. In other words, they’ll spend some amount of money which benefits the locals.
Host a match in Rizal and the same will happen, people from Laguna, Pampanga, Cavite , Batangas, Bulacan, etc. will drop by for the day while those from further away are likely to spend a day or two when they come in for a match.
It also helps increase tourism on an international level and the corresponding benefits this also contributes to the economy. However, it is not only the Filipinos who will want to see the match, especially if it is an international fixture. As the Azkals improve and begin to face much stronger opponents with large and dedicated fan bases, the day will come when supporters of the Azkals opponents who love to follow their teams around are going to come flocking to our country if we host a match against their team here.
With budget airfares to destinations such as Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. Expect to have fans from these countries coming in to support their teams if ever we start hosting matches against them.
As you can see, the growth of football in our country and the popularity of the Azkals and the momentum this has created for the progress of the beautiful game is a good complement for our tourism industry, both domestic and international. In addition, when our Azkals play overseas they also play a key role in promoting awareness about the Philippines and Filipinos.
However, just as it is in our tourism industry, in order to make the growth of Philippine soccer an effective partner in our efforts to boost tourism, investment in infrastructure is necessary. This is a win-win situation as infrastructure such as stadiums are needed for the sport’s progress and at the same time, it addresses the need to accommodate larger numbers of people who wish to watch the match.