A cheery Christmas for hotels

Christmas should always be a time for cheer and celebration even amid the pandemic.

As travel restrictions continue to ease and the number of COVID-19 cases remains low, it looks like the country’s hotel sector will be seeing a more cheerful Christmas this year.

“The relaxation of guidelines particularly with respect to inter-zonal policies has helped increase the occupancy of hotels in and out of Metro Manila, so we welcome the decision of the authorities to ease the restriction moving from one zone to another,” said Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) executive director Benito Bengzon, Jr.

With the National Capital Region (NCR) placed under the Alert Level 2 classification in the latter part of the year, Philippine hotels have seen an improvement in their occupancy.

“NCR is the main source market for domestic travel, so the de-escalation from Alert Level 3 to Level 2 has already contributed to stimulating activities and the demand on local travel,”Bengzon said.

PHOA president Arthur Lopez welcomed earlier the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF) easing of quarantine restrictions, saying this will help the accommodation industry recoup its lost revenues as the yuletide season is fast-approaching.

“The government’s move to ease restriction to Alert Level 2 will help not only the hotel and accommodation industry, but also the restaurants inside our establishments, especially now that we are entering the Christmas season. This latest development will sustain the employment of hotel workers and create a domino effect that will benefit the suppliers of our hotel-members,” Lopez said.

“Most of our hotel-members are greatly affected by the lockdowns imposed during the previous surges of COVID-19 cases in the country. We expect that the industry will regain its lost revenues in the last months of 2021, as we commit to provide safe and convenient hotel services to our guests,” he added.

Under Alert Level 2, venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity indoors, and 70 percent capacity for outdoors.

Staycations in accommodation establishments accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) will also continue similar to Alert Level 3.

Hotels now in a better situation

SM Hotels and Convention Corp. executive vice president Peggy Angeles said their hotels have already seen improvements starting November this year.

“Actually November probably was the best month in the last 11 months for 2021 in terms of revenue performance, at least for our group. I would like to think that will be the same for some of the other hotel groups,” said Angeles, who is also part of the PHOA board of directors.

Angeles pointed out that domestic tourism would be the stronger market compared to business travel, which is seen to have a slower recovery.

More employment

Apart from seeing more people stay or dine in hotels, Angeles said the improvement in the market can also be measured by the jobs that the sector provides.

“The barometer, apart from more people coming into the hotels in terms of food and beverage patronage or even staycations, is also that more of our employees have jobs now unlike before when we had shortened work weeks,” Angeles said.

Ayala Land Hotels and Resorts Corp. director Al Legaspi echoed Bengzon’s view, saying, “There is a tremendous pent up demand from the leisure market and we see a very strong recovery even as early now,” said Legaspi who is also part of the PHOA board of directors.

“We’re confident that this will be carried through 2022 as well,” he added.

Optimistic outlook for 2022

“Considering the reports on the number of COVID cases which have been kept to three digits, we feel that for 2022 onwards, we’ll see an upward trajectory not only for hotels and other accommodation facilities but for the tourism industry in general,” PHOA’s Bengzon said.

Indeed, it looks like the hotel industry will have a more cheerful time this holiday season.