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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Apec delegates 'frustrated' at increased hotel rates

HOTEL rates in Cebu are causing frustrations for organizers and some delegates of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings here later this month, as some hotels have reportedly jacked up room rates by as much as 120 percent.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Laura del Rosario appealed to hotel managers and the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) local office to do something about it, lest Cebu lose its chance to host international meetings in the future.

A deluxe room, for example, was priced at P4,530 last Aug. 5, but the rate increased to P11,000 for a night’s stay during the Apec meeting.

At least 3,000 delegates, mostly from the governments of 21 member-economies, will be in Cebu between Aug. 22 and Sept. 23 to attend the meetings.

Del Rosario said that some “frustrated” delegates were turned off by the sudden increase, especially since some hotels in other host cities have lowered their rates for Apec delegates.

Importance

“They are upset… ‘Why is Cebu doing this? Please don’t treat us like tourists.’ The delegates are coming here for a meeting that’s very important. Please don’t kill it,” del Rosario said during the briefing for government information officers and media at the Capitol Social Hall yesterday.

The Cebu Organizing Committee and DOT have met with representatives of the official hotels, and the latter told them they have given their response to the National Organizing Committee, DOT 7 Director Rowena Montecillo said in a text message last night.

Nearly 150 tourism officers of local governments in Cebu and information officers from both local and national agencies attended yesterday’s briefing, but no one from the DOT was present.

Complaints about the rates reportedly came through email, the Philippine embassies abroad and by word of mouth since July 10, while officials here are busy fixing roads and government facilities for the Apec meetings.

Del Rosario, also chairperson of the Apec Senior Officials’ Meeting, led other DFA officials in rallying local government units and the media to raise awareness on the importance of the Apec meetings to ordinary Cebuanos.

The Apec Senior Officials’ Meetings and the Finance Ministers’ Meeting will be held in accredited hotels including Radisson Blu Hotel, Waterfront Cebu City Hotel, Cebu City Marriott Hotel, Marco Polo Plaza and the Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa.

‘Be reasonable’

Del Rosario said that when some delegates checked the published rates online last Aug. 5, a superior room at the Radisson went for P5,800, a deluxe room at Marco Polo was priced at P4,530 and the same room classification in Marriott cost P5,000.

But when they tried to book on the dates of the Apec meetings, the same rooms reportedly cost P13,500 in Radisson, P11,000 in Marco Polo and P13,800 in Marriott.

Del Rosario said that even if the hotels say that the dates of the Apec meetings happen to be in the peak season, the increase should not be as much.

“Be reasonable. Don’t do a 120 percent increase because it’s just too big. Remember that 3,000 delegates and foreign media will be here and they blog and discuss these things… watch out, it will destroy the reputation of Cebu and your potential as a convention city,” she said, noting that the Philippines will again host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in 2017.

Del Rosario said that a businessman was shocked to learn that a hotel in Cebu City was charging more for a room during the ministerial meetings than a five-star hotel in Manila for the Apec leaders’ meeting in November.

In a separate interview, DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said that Cebu was chosen to be among the meeting venues because of its potential for tourism development and promotion.

He said that hosting the meetings will spur activities that will benefit the economy, while the preparations have already led to infrastructure projects like road repairs.

Cycle

Local suppliers who meet the increased demand for food and other essentials will have the opportunity to hire more—money that will go back to the local economy as workers spend.

“It’s a virtuous cycle and in the end that would spell economic growth and development,” said Jose.

During the briefing, Del Rosario said that some delegates want to stay in cheaper hotels, but these are far from the meeting venues “and they might miss their meetings because of the traffic that you have.”

“The rooms have to be discounted like hotels in Manila and in other host countries. There should be a discount because not all of us are rich. We’re spending government money. We cannot abuse government, we are not CEOs…  Just please give us a decent rate… konsensya naman ng kaunti,” del Rosario appealed.

Even delegates from rich economies have complained, she said.

She told reporters yesterday that she and her staff still haven’t booked a hotel room because with a budget of P3,000 for their room per night from the DFA, “we cannot afford to stay in Cebu. I might just go to a pension house, and I am the chair, so the other delegates might just also go to a pension house.”

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