President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Speech at the Novotel Manila Araneta Center Grand Launch 
Monet Grand Ballroom, Gen. Aquinaldo Ave. Araneta Center Quezon City,
08 March 2016
Those of us from a certain—shall we say, advanced—generation will have many stories to tell about Cubao. From watching movies in the New Frontier Theater, to annual trips to buy school supplies and shoes in National Bookstore and ShoeMart or Marikina Shoe Expo; from the very first boxing match I saw with my father, to the intense college basketball games we watched in the Araneta Coliseum—I think Tita Nene will not remember that the first time I watched the Harlem Globetrotters was with her good self and my Uncle Peping, and I wondered why I was deposited into the care of these two fine gentlemen. I was the only one of my generation present in that game. And since they were so busy talking, we managed to reach the fourth quarter of the game, just barely enough for me to understand what was going on. Just stepping foot in this area gives me cause to wax nostalgic.

Perhaps this bout of nostalgia is fueled all the more because Cubao is very different now. Nowhere are the changes more obvious than in ultra-modern structures like this one, Novotel Manila, the first and only Novotel in the archipelago. Of course, the AccorHotels Group is no stranger to the Philippines: You already have Sofitel in Manila. With your newest midscale venture here in one of the most iconic locations in Metro Manila—built with an able partner in the form of the Araneta Group—let me assure you, to borrow your new tagline: You will definitely “feel welcome.”

After all, my countrymen are renowned for their hospitality, which I suspect is among the reasons you have chosen to bet on them. I am told that part of your group’s mindset includes the fact that you “care for millions of people.” Perhaps, even just from Sofitel, you have already seen that there is no one better at caring for others than the Filipino. When you combine the warmth of our people, with AccorHotels’ own carefully cultivated tradition of hospitality, can you expect an outcome other than our collective success?

Indeed, developments like this have helped to maximize the potential of our tourism sector. Just to give you an example: Back in June of 2012, we had a total room supply of 162,403 rooms nationwide. So much so that we had concerns about hosting APEC that some of the rooms would just come in time for it. Projections showed that this would not be enough to handle the influx of visitors that the Philippines was expecting at that point in time, especially after our extremely successful “It’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign. There was a need to build, at a minimum, 37,352 new rooms by 2016.

The good news is that, by end-2014, we had already surpassed that target, with a total of 221,486 rooms across the entire country. That well-known names in the hotel industry continue to set up operations on our shores is a sign of our collective optimism. In fact, I am told that AccorHotels alone is set to open another five more properties in the future. Hopefully, in the very near future.

You could not have timed it more perfectly. More and more people every year are realizing just how much more fun it is in the Philippines. Our own countrymen have been traveling more and rediscovering the attractions of home: In 2014 alone, we recorded 54.6 million domestic travelers—far higher than the 51.7 million target we had set for 2015. International tourist arrivals have likewise grown, from 3.52 million tourists in 2010 to 5.36 million in 2015. Within that same timeframe, international tourism receipts more than doubled: from P112.55 billion in 2010 to P227.62 billion in 201–I wonder if Kim is taking down notes. These aren’t empty figures alone: They have a direct impact on the incomes of our countrymen—from local tour guides and handicrafts vendors, to the men and women employed in hotels like this one.

The good news: We will likely see even better numbers over the next few years, as we begin to reap the fruits of our development strategy. The Pocket Open Skies policy and reforms in civil aviation have already increased the number of flights to various locations in the Philippines. To handle greater demand, we have likewise pursued the upgrading and rehabilitation of 63 of our airports and 18 tourism ports; not to mention the development of nine new airports. Integrated transport systems, including the extension of our Light Rail Transit system in Metro Manila and surrounding areas, are likewise on the way.

Novotel Manila is literally in an excellent position to make the most of the latter, in particular. Your location in the Araneta Center means you are at the juncture of two of Manila’s major thoroughfares and of our LRT and MRT systems. Not to mention the fact that this is a center for business, culture, and entertainment in its own right—one that welcomes over a million visitors daily.

From what I’ve seen this evening, I am sure that your facilities will attract a good-sized chunk of those one million visitors, or even add to that number. Businessmen from nearby offices can take advantage of your executive lounge; families can indulge themselves in your restaurants, or even stay here for a couple of nights as a short vacation.

Let me tell you: It gives me great pleasure to witness the beginning of endeavors like this. It is a concrete manifestation of your confidence in our country; it tells me that, like us, you took a long, hard look at our prospects and decided that the best is yet to come—that the years ahead hold even greater progress for the Philippines.

Many more of our people will, like me, come to hold fond memories of this place—from your employees who come to work every day, assured of an honest and decent livelihood; or the passerby who will see Novotel Manila as a sign that the Philippines is well on its way up. I tell you tonight: The Filipino people will make sure that we continue on that upward trajectory. Like the AccorHotels Group and so many others present here tonight, I place my bets on my countrymen. Their inherent loyalty and love for country will guide them in choosing the path that will allow us to realize our dreams of a more inclusive and a more progressive Philippines.

Thank you. Good evening.