Is The Philippines Overtaking Thailand For Tourism? [Updated for 2019]

Written by Dezza, 31 August 2019.

Which country is better for tourism – Thailand or the Philippines? What makes one country better than the other? Let’s take a look to see if the Philippines is actually overtaking Thailand and becoming the most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia.

For a long time, Thailand was the place to go for an affordable holiday and a chance to enjoy something truly different.

However, in the last few years, the Philippines has started to attract some serious attention, but is it fair to say that it’s becoming the new go-to destination? 

The Philippines vs Thailand – Which Is Better?

This isn’t an easy question to answer as every country on the planet has something unique and attractive about it, along with some negatives also.

Which destination you choose depends upon what you want out of your holiday. Thailand has a lot of charm and culture that jumps right out at you.

However, the Philippines also has its own charm and culture – just in a different way. 

I have been to Thailand several times and as most of my readers and friends know, have been living in the Philippines since 2003. 

Therefore, I’m very conscious about coming across as being biased. So I will try and be as neutral as possible throughout this article.

Let’s take a look at the two countries now and break it down so we can try and determine if one country is actually better than the other for tourism.

 Philippines vs Thailand tourism

The Philippines vs Thailand – which place should you go to next?

Bangkok or Manila?

First of all, when it comes to Thailand vs Philippines, let’s take a look at the capital cities because this will usually be the first place you land in the respective countries.

Bangkok is a great place for sightseeing. There are charming temples, bustling markets, and plenty of things to see and do. 

Buddhism is huge in Bangkok, and as a result, there are dozens of temples (some authentic, some performative for the tourists). 

It can be said that Manila has less ‘personality’ and is a little more bland, however, it is way more westernised.

So if you’re looking for a holiday with an authentic Asian feel to it, Manila might be a little underwhelming.

However, there is one part of Manila that will surprise everyone about the Philippines and that is Intramuros. This is an old colonial area of Manila that will truly surprise you.

What About Beaches?

When it comes to beaches, the Philippines definitely has the edge. With 7,641 islands, there are thousands upon thousands of islands to explore.

While it’s true that Thailand has some absolutely amazing beaches such as those in Ko Samui, Phi Phi Island and Krabi, the Philippines offers more variety.

Although most people have heard of Boracay and Palawan, with both islands consistently being voted the best islands in the world, there are still so many more beaches that are just as good but people haven’t caught onto yet.

This means that a trip to the Philippines doesn’t mean taking the same holiday every other visitor does. There are plenty of ways to make your trip very unique. 

 Philippines vs Thailand tourism

With 7,641 islands, the Philippines has some of the best beaches in the world like this one in Palawan.

Different Cultures

Thailand and the Philippines are both places with a culture that is very different from the west. Although they are both Asian countries with a lot of similarities, they are also vastly different from each other.

The main difference is that the Philippines is a place with a strong Catholic background, which is unique in itself for an Asian country, while Thailand is primarily Buddhist. 

In my experience, this can be felt with the way they interact with foreigners. While Thais are very respectful and courteous, Filipinos are renowned around the world for their warmth and friendliness towards foreigners.

Whether or not this is pegged to their religious beliefs or maybe the language barrier contributes to this however, I personally find Filipinos a lot warmer and friendlier.

A Chance to Try New Food

Thai food is widely regarded as being some of the best in the world and is one of my personal favourites. Although both countries have a street food culture, it’s pretty hard to rival Thai food. 

The Philippines, in contrast, may not be world-renowned for amazing food, but it does have more western choices. And of course, there are still local things to sample too.

 Philippines vs Thailand tourism

Although the Philippines has some good street food, it’s hard to beat Thailand in this area.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Do you want to train Muay Thai in Thailand, or explore wildlife sanctuaries in the Philippines? Are Buddhist temples your thing, or does swimming with whale sharks flick your switch? Do you want to ride elephants or hike up volcanoes?

This is a classic example of one country not really being better than the other, it’s more about what you want to experience.

Both counties have plenty of adventure and places of interest so it just depends on what you want to enjoy. 

Diverse Histories

Thailand has a rich history which can be traced back to migrants who left Southwestern China and travelled, over the course of centuries, across Southeast Asia. 

Thailand was the only state to avoid colonial rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the French and British agreeing that it would be neutral territory. 

This has helped it to retain its own culture with its own unique personality while at the same time creating a sense of mystery. 

The Philippines, meanwhile, is heavily influenced by the Spanish having been a former Spanish colony for close to 400 years. 

Then the Philippine Revolution took place in 1898, which lead to the American Colonial era of which lasted up until the end of World War II.

Today, the Philippines is a multicultural destination, and the influences of each era can be clearly felt.

 Philippines vs Thailand tourism

Is this Spain or the Philippines? The Spanish history of the Philippines is something not many people know about as shown above in Vigan City.

Are Thailand and the Philippines Safe?

When it comes to Philippines vs Thailand on the safety front, both destinations are safe for tourists.

However, just like any country in the world, there are places to go and places to be avoided and its incumbent on the travel to do their due diligence accordingly.

The Philippines has been in the headlines in recent years due to its zero-tolerance policy towards drugs, which has ultimately helped to reduce crime. 

Filipinos are quite boisterous compared to Thais, and that can be noticed at night when the drink is flowing.

However, this is non-threatening behaviour so backpackers and holidaymakers can feel safe in both places taking into consideration what I mentioned earlier. 

As long as you exercise common sense, you should be safe wherever you go.

Party Atmosphere

Bangkok is well-known for its lively party atmosphere. Some of the biggest festivals in the world are held in Thailand, including the ever-popular full moon parties like those held in Ko Pha-ngan. 

Then there are various festivals in Thailand such as the Songkran (water) Festival and Lopburi Monkey Banquet.

However, Filipinos know how to party and love having a good time. The MassKara Festival and Ati-Atihan Festival are great examples of this.

Then there is videoke. A Filipino invented the videoke machine and no trip to the Philippines would be complete without belting out a few tunes on the videoke machine. 

I have been to some of the most remote places in the Philippines where I have been amazed to even find electrical power, let alone finding the videoke machine blaring with virtually the whole barangay participating. 

However, it is so commonplace and central to Filipino culture that you simply need to experience it when you visit the country.

 Philippines vs Thailand tourism

The full moon parties in Thailand are legendary and very popular with international tourists.

The Philippine Tourist Scene Is Growing

Both Thailand and the Philippines see a lot of tourist activity. Until recently, Thailand dominated the scene when it came to westerners, but there is a steady shift towards the Philippines. 

This could, in part, be down to changing visa policies, or perhaps because those who have already visited Thailand are looking for something new.

Tourism is now a major driver of the Philippine economy, contributing 12.7 per cent of the country’s economic activity in 2018, up from 10.1 per cent in 2015! 

The Tourism Authority of Thailand runs regular campaigns promoting Thai culture, such as the “Amazing Thailand” and “Discover Thainess” campaigns.

And as highlighted in the article there are many things drawing visitors to Thailand, including Muay Thai training, elephants, food, temples and even medical tourism.

Then, of course, the Department of Tourism in the past have run the “More Fun In The Philippines” campaigns and the statistics speak for themselves. Interest in travel to the Philipines has been growing year on year.

The statistics for January to April 2019 showed that inbound visitors to the Philippines were up by 8.57% year-on-year, with arrivals for the month of April alone up by 12.15%. 

These statistics show that there is a number of visitors who feel that there is a lot to see and do in the Philippines, and they’re ready to try something new this year.

Final Thoughts

So there we have it. Who wins in the tourism race between the Philippines vs Thailand? I think we can see from this article that each country offers something unique and that one isn’t necessarily better than the other.

It really depends on what the traveller wants from their holiday. Then of course time permitting, why not visit both countries during the one trip?!

In conclusion, even though I might be biased towards the Philippines when it comes to Thailand vs Philippines tourism, both countries have plenty to offer and it just boils down to what you are looking for in your holiday.

I hope this article helps you in your decision-making process. Please check out the related articles and videos below and please feel free to share this article with family and friends and also join the conversation below!

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