Mactan Resorts, hotels eye full recovery in 2024

Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu map.
Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu map. (Google Maps)

TWO years after Super Typhoon Odette (Rai) pummeled Cebu, resorts and hotels in Lapu-Lapu City are now finally eyeing 100 percent recovery in their operations by the first quarter of 2024.

At present, renovation and upgrades of tourism facilities that were damaged by Odette are now 90 percent complete, according to industry players.

“For the first time, we feel like we’re 90 or 95 (percent). There’s all just those little bits you need to fix, some are just the wear of tear of the years. I think most of the Odette damage is done and fixed,” said Brian Connelly, general manager of JPark Island Resort and Waterpark Mactan, Cebu.

Lapu-Lapu City-based member-resorts and hotels of Hotel, Resort & Restaurant Association of Cebu Inc. (HRRACI) gathered on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023, to share insights from the aftermath of Super Typhoon Odette and expectations of the industry for 2024.

Underground cables

The group requested for the local government unit (LGU) to pursue underground cabling to ease the recovery process in the event of another typhoon, making it less challenging for the establishments to recover from potential damages.

Super Typhoon Odette, which made landfall in Cebu on Dec. 16, 2021, left a huge damage to agriculture and infrastructure totaling more than P28 billion, according to a report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The Department of Tourism 7 also projected tourism-related damages amounting to at least P3.4 billion in Central Visayas.

Damage

Of this amount, Cebu’s initial damage assessment was pegged at P2.5 billion.

The damage was largely attributed to the destruction of significant properties, with accommodation establishments bearing the brunt at P2.47 billion. The majority of the damage was concentrated in Lapu-Lapu City.

During Wednesday’s meeting, hoteliers identified intrusion of sand into facilities and rooms, and buildings losing their roofing as some of their common challenges.

Some resorts had to rely on revenue for repairs, despite being fully covered by insurance.

While some properties continued operating due to manageable damage like Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort, Mactan.

“I think after a couple of months it was all fixed,” said Domiku Ugarte, the resort’s general manager.

Upgrading facilities

Hotels and resorts seized the opportunity to upgrade their facilities, ensuring enhanced resilience in the event of another typhoon while enhancing the overall guest experience.

As part of the changes implemented, resorts like Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan invested in additional satellite phones.

These phones connect to other phones or a telephone network via a radio link through satellites, eliminating dependence on existing network providers and ground infrastructure.

“We took the necessary measure to be able to make sure we can communicate with the outside (world),” said Didier Belmonte, general manager of Crimson.

Hotels and resorts have requested the LGU to oversee the management of cable lines, expressing the hope that these lines can be placed underground.

John Kristoffer Rafols, an officer from the Lapu Lapu City Tourism, Cultural, and Historical Affairs Commission, said there are already discussions from the LGU challenging telecommunication companies to start with the underground cables or there will be no business permits and other city-required documents granted to them.

Rafols added the City is now starting to clear wires.

Cautious optimism

Hotels and resorts are approaching 2024 with cautious optimism, actively exploring strategies to attract foreign tourists.

They acknowledge that they have not yet fully returned to pre-pandemic numbers with some international tourists facing issues such as visa restrictions and the absence of direct flights from certain regions like Japan.

“One of the big absentees for us at least was the Japanese market. If and when the Japanese market will come back then we should be able to exceed the 2019 numbers,” said Dave Junker, general manager of Shangrila’s Mactan Resort and Spa.

Travel outlook

The Airports Council International, an organization of airport authorities aimed at uniting industry practices for airport standards, revealed that the air travel outlook for 2024 will reach 9.4 billion passengers, surpassing the year 2019 which only welcomed 9.2 billion passengers.

Flight connectivity is one of the key areas of concern for these establishments because the lack of direct flights would mean fewer guests traveling to Mactan Island and staying in their properties.

“Without the direct flights it’s going to affect us,” said Brian Noel, general manager of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.

The domestic and Korean markets also play a significant role in the market share of hotels and resorts.

Establishments like Savoy Hotel Mactan Newtown note that Koreans constitute 70 percent of their market share. They anticipate a similar trend for 2024, relying on both local and Korean visitors for their business growth.

“I don’t think China is coming in real soon but while waiting for that, we’re just really looking at tapping the Korean market,” said Jot Chiongbian, general manager of Savoy Mactan.

Eya Shrimski, general manager of Tambuli Seaside Resort and Spa, reported that the number of guests doubled from 2022 to 2023.

The establishment is aiming for 10 to 15 percent of their customers to be long-stay guests, staying for at least a month.

Lapu-Lapu City welcomed 1.8 million tourists in 2019. Last year, the city logged 300,000 arrivals.

Rafols said better infrastructure such as the fourth Cebu-Mactan bridge will help boost tourism traffic on the island. The hoteliers assure guests of exciting experiences and packages in 2024.

Simon Chew, general manager of Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu assured the domestic and foreign markets that they will both get to experience the same warmth of Filipino hospitality and great service during their on Mactan Island.

“Help us fully recover. Instead of thinking of traveling to Bohol or Boracay, everything that you’re looking for in those areas is here in Lapu-Lapu,” said Chiongbian.

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