Tourism to be more fun again in PH
It’s anything but business as usual. For the Philippine hospitality sector, it will certainly take new measures, innovations, a strong resolve and a healthy dose of optimism to get through these challenging times. As countries impose border closures, travel restrictions and varying forms of lockdowns to curb the transmission of the deadly virus, hotels and resorts as well as other tourism-related sectors meanwhile took a massive, direct hit.
Industry players, however, are not losing hope. As hotels and resorts await the easing of travel restrictions, they are in the meantime mapping out their respective recovery plans—preparations are now in full swing, while new measures are being added and implemented to ensure the safety and well-being of their guests.
And there’s a reason indeed to be bullish. The travel and tourism industry, after all, has been a significant contributor to the Philippine economy, generating millions of jobs and billions of pesos in tourism receipts. And with the proposed P58-billion Tourism Response and Recovery Plan and the industry players’ own measures, a recovery may hopefully be in the offing.
Some of the country’s biggest players in the hospitality industry have shared their thoughts about this setback and their gameplan once travel—albeit, under a new normal—resumes.
Blending safety, hygiene, reduced contact
Safety and hygiene will become the most important hotel amenity, according to Bruce Winton, cluster general manager of Marriott Manila.
He pointed out that while Marriott hotels have always had a focus on best-in-class cleaning and hygiene practices, their efforts to focus on the Top 10 touch points in their rooms and public spaces, staff training, follow up and inspection, use of hospital grade chemicals will complement operational practices. The goal is to reduce touch points; promote use of digital and social distancing measures; as well as improve overall guest and associate awareness.
Beyond these, Marriott’s game plan will also include several other key points: “to do good in the community; protect our associates, business partners and guests in every way—health, jobs, (as well as) manage costs, seek new business opportunities; promote and enjoin in local tourism opportunities; (and) build our global relationships for the re-start of international travel.”
“Many practices will change, but it will be most important to blend safety, hygiene, reduced contact environment that offers peace of mind with a still very personalized and individual experience. Hoteliers are very creative and we have plans on how to execute this and are already doing it,” Winton said.
As Marriott prepares for the resumption of travel, Winton remains optimistic that Philippine travel and tourism will eventually bounce back.
“Tourism has been a major contributor to the Philippine economy and we were gathering fabulous momentum. This is a setback, of course, but I do not believe it will affect the long term opportunity that the Philippines affords. We remain very optimistic and all of our projects continue as planned. Barring a few minor delays, we are still bullish and our development team is still discussing new projects even during the quarantine period with local investors,” Winton concluded.
Embracing the new normal
Sheraton Manila intends to embrace the new normal and work around whatever new opportunities this may give. This is why this hotel chain has already done a lot of preparations with regards to maximizing business opportunities under the new normal.
“We have recently introduced our delivery/pick-up with our F&B offerings. We will partner with several reputable F&B delivery platforms to widen our reach in the market. Our strategy is to bring what Sheraton Manila is known for to our guests, who at this point, are understandably still hesitant to visit or stay in the hotel. While we expect some apprehensions in visiting hotels, we continue our efforts to reach out to our clients and gain their confidence by assuring them that we (are addressing) all safety concerns and we are ready to welcome them back,” said Sheraton Manila general manager Anna Liza Vergara.
Vergara noted that while businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns, they continue to see a bright future ahead.
“We should continue to believe that we will all survive this and remain positive in what the future may bring. It has been obviously delayed but it should continue,” she said.
“(In the case of Sheraton), we have come up with strategies on how we could bring business back the soonest. We see an opportunity on staycations, food takeout/delivery, alternative office set up solutions and a lot more. We are very excited to launch all these as soon as we are able to do so. In the meantime, we remain positive and we look forward to facing 2020 with a lot of excitement and anticipation,” Vergara concluded.
Adapting to a ‘new reality’
Megaworld Hotels is one with its mother company’s banner of “new reality,” which means setting up protocols and safety guidelines to ensure the safety all of stakeholders as businesses transition back to normal operational scenarios.
Cleofe C. Albiso, group general manager at Megaworld Hotels, disclosed the measures they have been implementing which include thermal scanning, wearing of face masks, observing physical distancing at all times inside the hotel, and providing sanitation agents in public areas. High touch public areas are disinfected regularly while deep cleaning is done once a week. Provided in the rooms are extra linens, towels and sanitization kits while associates are subjected to rapid testing and are issued new uniforms that incorporate PPEs (mask, gloves, eye protector, gowns).
“But foremost to the list of adapting to the new normal is making sure we are compliant to the government’s guidelines through the Department of Tourism. It is imperative to us that we secure a certification to operate from the agency as this acts as a security for guests to perceive us as safe place. Next is just resorting to practices that are safe and recommended by WHO and DOH nd making sure that our safety protocols are implemented,” Albiso said.
“Besides the implementation of safety measures, Megaworld Hotels is considering to invest on germicidal equipment to minimize if not kill viruses such as disinfecting chambers and UV lights. Also e-platforms, such as e-concierge and e-commerce may be expected as a solution to lessen guest touch points as well,” she disclosed.
Albiso acknowledged that the pandemic’s impact is unparalleled—a lot of industries have been caught off guard in terms of business continuity. Still, they remain optimistic, according to Albiso, that they can overcome this by finding solutions and alternatives.
“We are fortunate to have been given the time and opportunity in Megaworld Hotels to formulate plans on how to go about the crisis. First, we are leveraging on the fact that we are not closed. We welcomed OFWs and seafarers’ bookings as means to help the country and our employees still keep their jobs. Second, we have been creative in our product offerings that are aligned in the spirit of the current time. In rooms, we are offering LSG and budget packages for the BPOs and corporate markets that need accommodation for their associates. And of course part of our CSR is to reach out to hospitality and tourism students by conducting a survival kit webinar and introduce our iAcademy to train while schools are also online,” Albiso explained.
Haven amid the quarantine
Conrad Manila was one of the first few accommodation facilities to continue to operate even during the enhanced community quarantine—providing a safe haven for medical professionals, stranded, transiting guests leaving the country, distressed overseas Filipino workers, business processing outsourcing (BPO) employees, and those who have been endorsed by the Department of Tourism or their respective embassies.
Nevertheless, Conrad Manila made sure to subject all its guests and team members to stringent health and safety measures, said Emile Otte, director of operations.
According to Otte, health protocols were strictly observed: temperature scanning for guests and team members; sanitation at all touch points; deep sanitation of premises; enforcement of food safety and hygiene measures, and strict observance of social distancing. To help ensure the comfort and convenience of its in-house guests, strong Wi-Fi was made available along with an on-site 24/7 clinic with medical staff.
Currently, Conrad Manila is in the midst of preparations to welcome back travelers and staycationers once travel restrictions are eased. Thriving in the new normal, Otte said, takes a deep meaning in process management, resources mobilization, guest services delivery without sacrificing their unique brand promise of being the light and warmth of hospitality.
“Digital connectivity is further enhanced for efficiency and effectiveness.Premises are continuously undergoing deep sanitation, following strict global safety and health standards, for a seamless check-in and check-out of guests. Dining, health and leisure facilities (including gym, spa, and swimming pool) have been prepared and maintained for immediate opening once government issues the mandate. Operating guidelines based on government directives have been, and will be strictly enforced, especially health and security checks, mandatory wearing of PPEs, social distancing, and sanitation. Owned by SM Hotels and Conventions Corp., and managed by Hilton, the award-winning Conrad Manila is set to locally launch ‘Hilton CleanStay’ to enhance the hotel’s existing methods and implement a focus on cleanliness that’s visible throughout the guest’s stay,” Otte further explained.
“Conrad Manila, part of the Hilton luxury brand, lives and leads the principles of this international reputation in terms of providing our team members and our market with an excellent brand. This is the pillar of our recovery plan,” Otte concluded.
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