As host of the 30th South-East Asian (SEA) Games in 2019, the Philippines is aiming to put on the largest event of this magnitude to date. Taking place from November 30 to December 11, the SEA Games will feature 56 sports and 523 events, easily outpacing Thailand’s previous record of 44 sports in 2011. New sports on offer include skateboarding, obstacle sports, breakdancing and e-sports. Organisers initially proposed a budget of P7.5bn ($139.5m), but in February 2019 the Senate approved a budget of P5bn ($93m). The reduced budget prompted organisers to turn to government and private sponsorships to make up the difference. This resulted in the event’s funding receiving a boost in the following May when President Rodrigo Duterte approved an additional P1bn ($18.6m) for the SEA Games.
The SEA Games will not only have short-term benefits in terms of boosting visitor numbers, but are also likely to benefit sport in the country over the long run and bring new opportunities for the sector. The state-run Philippine News Agency reported in May 2019 that 7806 athletes and 3444 coaches from 11 countries are expected to participate in the event.
Sporting events will be held in different cities, drawing spectators to venues across the country. The majority of these sports will be clustered around Clark, which is hosting 21 sports; 19 will be held in Metro Manila; 14 in Subic; and four across Batangas, La Union and Tagaytay. These cities stand to see significant development and tourism from hosting the SEA Games, with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation funding approximately P842m ($15.7m) in developments for new athlete dormitories, a new medical building and a largescale rehabilitation of venues including the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Malate.
Clark stands to benefit significantly from the SEA Games, and the authorities hope the city will emerge as a regional destination. The National City Government Administrative Centre in New Clark City will host key events such as martial arts and contact sports, attracting international media and crowds away from overcrowded Metro Manila. The centre boasts a 20,000-seat stadium, a 2000-seat aquatic centre, an athletic village with a 1.4-km river park featuring bicycle and jogging paths, and the 50-ha New Clark City Sports Complex. The complex is one of the SEA Games’ main venues and is slated to be completed in August 2019.
The city is already a major entry point for business with the Clark Freeport Zone serving as a major hub, and the authorities expect the SEA Games will bring more investment into the Central Luzon region long after the culmination of the event. This trend will be heightened with the completion of a high-speed rail from Manila expected in 2022. Clark International Airport is also increasing international connections as part of efforts to reduce reliance on Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which is operating above its visitor capacity. The number of visitors Clark City can accommodate will also be increased as a result of the opening of Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton hotels in 2019.
The SEA Games could act as a stepping stone for the Philippines to host other international sporting events in the future. The country won the bid to host the ASEAN Para Games in 2020 and is eyeing the 2030 Asian Games.
Media coverage of the SEA Games will provide the country with an international platform to portray its strength as an attractive tourism destination and capable tournament host. Its hospitable services segment with considerable proficiency in English has long been a draw, and officials are eager to build upon this reputation to ensure the SEA Games not only have a short-term impact on visitor arrivals but also a long-term impact on the tourism sector.