Taking note of what’s best and worst in a resort
MACROHON, Southern Leyte—Couple Robert and Babes Castañares love everything about travel and adventure. They take note of what’s the best and worst parts of every place in terms of food, accommodation and service.
That habit became useful in 2007 when they built Kuting Reef Resort and Spa in Barangay Asuncion, Macrohon town, in Southern Leyte.
“During our travels we would often see things that make us comment, ‘Ay, kaya natin yan! (We can do that!).’ We told ourselves that we should copy the best practices, execute them better and leave out the bad ones,” says Robert, chief executive officer of Optimus Assets Inc. which operates Kuting Reef.
Robert bought the three-hectare property in 1999 when he was looking for the family’s vacation spot. Although he was born in Manila, he felt closer to home in the place. His parents though are from Pintuyan town in southern Leyte’s Panaon Island.
He named the resort Kuting Reef after the sitio where it is located. Nothing definite though about why the place was called Kuting, Filipino word for “kitten,” but locals say kittens used to frequent the beach several years ago.
There is no white-sand beach, and the Castañares couple make up by building an infinity pool facing the sea.
Resort boasts of a bermuda grass-covered lawn planted with coconut trees now 30 to 40 years old. It has 30 rooms—deluxe cabana, premier cabana, casita and casa—with prices ranging from P950 to P4,200 for an overnight stay.
An “honesty” store allows guests to pick any item, pay for it and get their change from a box of paper bills and coins.
Business is booming, says Robert.
Southern Leyte does not have any facility that Kuting Reef does not offer. Local tourists from the neighboring provinces of Leyte and Samar fuel the growth of the resort.
“Families from the provinces who used to travel to Cebu or Bohol to hold their reunions and gathering have chosen Kuting Reef as an alternative. They get almost the same facility and service and they spend less on transportation,” he says.
Kuting Reef is strategically located along the province’s tourism corridor where most dive resorts are found. It is barely an hour’s ride by boat to the historic island of Limasawa.
With Southern Leyte’s tourism campaign to become the playground center of Eastern Visayas in 2013, Robert expects to see more local tourists visiting his resort.
Robert is also president of the 11-month-old Southern Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SLCCI), a group of businessmen and entrepreneurs seeking to assist the government in improving the social and economic situation of the province.
Since 2010, Robert says he has seen the growth of the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market. He even considers this market the resort’s bread and butter.
The resort can accommodate an average of 500 weekly guests for MICE events. It offers water sport activities, including snorkeling, and package tours to nearby sites.
A civil engineer, Robert had worked for both private and public sectors for more than 20 years. He spent 15 years working for a multinational company before he was appointed assistant secretary for project planning and development of the Department of Transportation and Communications, a post he held from 2003 to 2006.
Robert says he has banked on the knowledge and skills he learned from his corporate and government experiences. His wife is into interior designing and event management.
They have 40 employees who are all residents of Southern Leyte.
Believing in social responsibility to the community, the resort recently formed Kuting Kids who are trained in cultural dancing and singing to entertain the guests. The children are beneficiaries of the resort’s feeding program and community services, which include donating school supplies and giving weekly school allowance.
It will next teach local barangay women massage and therapy skills.
“I always tell my staff that facilities can be easily duplicated. Service will distinguish us from the rest,” Robert says.