As a popular city resort, Tagaytay has been experiencing a boom of boutique hotels and bed & breakfasts.
One reason is the reaction by visitors against the uniformity of standard urban hotels. Instead of basking in the grandeur of brand hotels in the city, the market is looking for homey rooms and personalized service in a resort city. Likewise, owners can peg a good price to make the business lucrative.
In Tagaytay, the term “boutique hotel” is used interchangeably as bed & breakfast because the bulk of the revenues come from the rooms. Most people prefer to try out other restaurants along the ridge or Antonio’s rather than eat in the outlets of their lodgings.
Along Km. 54, Silang crossing East Aguinaldo, Hotel Theodore has a reputation for taking guests out of their mundane lifestyle into a hip experience.
General manager Jennifer Pangilinan transformed the family property into a must-visit place in Tagaytay.
The hotel is under the family holding company, Blue Jeep Company. Pangilinan looks up to her father, Doroteo, for his entrepreneurship. He was in his last year of electrical engineering at Far Eastern University when he eloped with her mother, Theresa. As a starting couple, Doroteo or Ding to friends drove a blue jeep to make ends meet. Then the couple began a garments business until most companies shifted to manufacturing in China. Today, her father is one of the owners of Metro Walk in Ortigas. Blue Jeep also owns a budget resort in Talisay, Batangas called Villa Khristalene.
Pangilinan studied at the Center for Culinary Arts and set up a catering business. With her knowledge for hospitality and passion for design, she collaborated with interior designer Andy Galutera to create Hotel Theodore. The name was coined after her parents, Theresa and Doroteo.
Boutique hotels don’t follow the brand standards of hotel companies. They are sometimes referred as lifestyle hotels for their offbeat design offerings, designed to suit a certain location or demographic.
Hotel Theodore’s 10 rooms offer different design themes such as Japanese, Neo-Baroque, whimsical, geometric, contemporary, Moorish, country, retro Pop Art, and modern Filipino which is a favorite of foreigners.
“When I was in Los Angeles, I went around trying everything from good hotels to bad motels. I brought the relaxed vibe of LA guests love to stay in their rooms,” says Pangilinan.
Despite the individual personality of Hotel Theodore’s rooms, they follow certain hotel standards such as a safe, card keys, concierge service, security, premium toiletries, satellite TV, etc.
“Tagaytay is known as a quaint place for a retreat or a quick getaway,” says Pangilinan. “Visitors have choices from an upscale hotel to small family-run business like us.”
She is unfazed if a new bed & breakfast place just opened with rates for as low as P2,000 a night. “Hotel Theodore is one of the more expensive places here,” she says.
On weekends, the rates range from P7,000 to over P12,000 net, depending on the room sizes which vary from 27 sqm to 40 sqm. Its market targets foreigners and the AB group who are willing to pay more to stay in a unique ambience. The quirky décor gives them the experience of being away from home. Still, being design-driven is not enough. Visitors expect functionality and hospitality.
“Our edge is the well trained staff. They are the backbone of the business. That is what guests pay for,” says Pangilinan. They receive a fun version of deluxe service-wide space, Wi-Fi and staffers responsive to their needs whether it’s organizing their reservations and transfers to Antonio’s; replace a wilted wedding bouquet or run for a baby formula all the way to Dasmariñas, Cavite.
It also means providing their signature touches such as the tasty organic breakfast platter and customized coffee blend and wow factors like the eclectic lobby with unusual furniture.
Recommendations from Agoda and Trip Advisor have been bringing in customers. Pangilinan cites Ensogo and Groupon group vouchers as effective means for new businesses to build their brand. Last year, they got as much as 270 in their listing when the hotel offered P3,500 a night. It fed on the aspirations of the middle class market that feel as if they were well-travelled.
“People get to know more about it. They post their pictures and write comments or send e-mail saying it was more than value for their money,” she says.
However, the young hotelier doesn’t plan to go into a bulk buying promotion in the near future. She estimates that it would take five or six years for the hotel to recover its investments.
Because Hotel Theodore provides accessibility to Tagaytay’s hotspots, good service and big rooms with big bathrooms, people will pay the price.
“People have approached us, asking us to operate their small lodgings even if I wasn’t trained in it,” says Pangilinan. The secret to Hotel Theodore’ s success is the Golden Rule. “The guests are treated the way I would like to be treated.”