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Hotel Owners Say It Will Take Time For Them To Recover

Hotel Owners Say It Will Take Time For Them To Recover
A staff member cleans a guest room at Sheraton Manila Hotel in Pasay City on May 21, 2021. Hotels in the country have been allowed to reopen for leisure at limited capacity every time restrictions are eased amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

A group of hotel owners admitted on Monday, Oct. 25, that the industry will take some time before it gets to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Benito Bengzon, executive director of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA), said possible reopening of international leisure travel s is going to be crucial as it “will provide the optimum mix of clients for our members.”

“If the restrictions for inbound travel are removed and if we continue to see the same kind of guidelines for domestic or interzonal or maybe even less restrictive, then we can see pickup during the first quarter of 2022,” Bengzon told “BusinessWorld Live” on One News.

Bengzon stressed their recovery will depend on how soon the country will open its borders to international traffic as well as how prompt the local and international airlines will bring back their “operating level.”

“Maybe not pre-pandemic, but a level that [provides] them good load factor and revenues,” he noted.

Bengzon said they welcome the decision of the local executives to do away with reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR for fully vaccinated individuals in visiting tourist destinations.

“I think there are enough studies to show there is pent-up demand for travel among Filipinos,” Bengzon added.

As early as November, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said fully vaccinated individuals may already visit the world-renowned Boracay Island without having to undergo COVID-19 testing.

On Oct. 22, Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores committed to accept visitors with proof of full vaccination instead of a negative RT-PCR test result once the island reaches a 100% inoculation rate among its residents.

Bengzon cited the high cost of testing as one of the “deal breakers” or deterrents to traveling. “So with this decision of some destinations to do away with RT-PCR, we can see stronger demand,” he pointed out.

He also said they are hoping that other destinations will consider easing of restrictions – by removing the RT-PCR as a requirement.

“I think at the end of the day what's important is we're able to ensure a safe, comfortable journey for all our customers,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said there has been a “dramatic increase” in tourist arrivals in the past two months compared to the same period last year.

Boracay Island recorded a total of 6,702 arrivals in September and 17,995 in the first three weeks of October. “This represents an increase of 253% and 1,243.6%, respectively, from the same periods last year.”

The DOT noted that all tourism workers and eligible residents of Boracay will be fully vaccinated within the month of October, which would make it the first destination in the Philippines to achieve 100% inoculation.

“The Department of Tourism made this projection as the vaccination hit 91.09% of all tourism workers and 62.78% of the eligible population of the island as of Sunday (Oct. 24),” Puyat said in a statement on Sunday.

DOT’s data showed that a total of 15,350 or 62.78 % of the island’s eligible population of 24,451 have been fully vaccinated, leaving some 9,000 residents left to be vaccinated.

As of Oct. 21, Western Visayas or Region 6, which is comprised of the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Guimaras and Iloilo, recorded an inoculation rate of 63.26% among tourism workers.

Still ‘top-of-mind’ destination in the world

Despite meager budget due to a P1-billion cut, Puyat earlier said the Philippines is still “top-of-mind” destinations in the world amid the pandemic.

“For this year, binawasan kami ng P1 billion for branding, for anything… We (the Philippines) are all always mentioned despite na kokonti ‘yung ating promotions for branding,” Puyat told “Agenda” on One News on Oct. 19.

“But of course, we respect naman the decision of the lawmakers (to reducethe budget)…We understand that maybe they want to put it on health or in other (programs or projects)?” she added.

According to Puyat, the DOT is instead doing online promotion due to limited budget for branding.

“We are still trying our best to still be top of mind despite the reduction in the budget,” the tourism chief said.

The DOT also announced that the Philippines was once again cited as Asia's leading beach destination and Asia’s leading dive destination at the 28th World Travel Awards (WTA).

“We are elated that the country’s pristine beaches and mesmerizing dive spots have once again been cited as the best in Asia by the prestigious 2021 World Travel Awards,” Puyat said in a statement on Oct.19.

The WTA aims to acknowledge, reward, and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel and tourism industry.

The Philippines is still in the running for the following categories:

  • World’s Leading Beach Destination 2021: Philippines
  • World’s Leading Dive Destination 2021: Philippines
  • World’s Leading Island Destination 2021: Siargao, Philippines
  • World’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2021: Intramuros, Philippines
  • World’s Leading Tourist Board 2021: Philippines, Department of Tourism

Voting ran until midnight of Monday via https://www.worldtravelawards.com/

Some of the country’s top beach destinations are Boracay in Aklan, Siargao in Surigao del Norte, and El Nido and Amanpulo in Palawan. These beaches have already opened to domestic tourists and are ready to welcome foreign tourists once international borders reopen.

Top diving spots in the country include the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan, Anilao in Batangas, Malapascua and Moalboal in Cebu, Balicasag, Panglao and Anda in Bohol, and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro.

According to DOT, this is the country’s fifth time to win Asia's Leading Beach Destination and the third time in a row since 2019 to win the Asia’s Leading Dive Destination award.

“We are quite surprised…kahit na walang budget compared to other countries, we are still top of mind,” Puyat told Agenda during the interview.