AN INDUSTRY stakeholder has expressed its confidence in the Philippines’ ability to capture a good share of the global tourism market, owing to its English-speaking population and internationally recognized Filipino brand of hospitality.
“The Philippines is a great destination. It is a destination that has an appeal for everyone,” said Barun Jolly, the new senior vice president – business general manager of Robinsons Hotels and Resorts (RHR).
But more than the pristine beaches and other nature-based attractions across the country, Jolly said it’s the Filipino workforce who will play a crucial role in helping the country’s tourism industry get a good share of the global tourism pie.
Not yet recovered
According to Jolly, the tourism industry has not yet fully recovered from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there has been a noticeable improvement in the numbers over the last two quarters, although they have not yet reached the levels seen before the pandemic.
“But the good thing is that the Philippines has an English-speaking population and people are genuinely into hospitality. One of the Philippines’ biggest exports really is manpower. If you’re going to Dubai or the US, in a lot of hotels, you will find Filipinos providing exemplary service. So I think, when you come to the Philippines you will get great service. So, people will want to come and I think the demand is going to the Philippines,” said Jolly.
“We are just waiting for more flights to come in, better connections and we will see more influx of tourists,” he added.
According to the latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals reached 84 percent of pre-pandemic levels. There were 700 million tourists who traveled internationally between January and July 2023, 43 percent more than in the same months of 2022.
Prospects for September-December 2023 point to continued recovery, according to the latest UNWTO Confidence Index, though at a more moderate pace.
As of Oct. 3, 2023, the Philippines has received over four million international visitors and recorded P344 billion in foreign visitor receipts in the first nine months of the year.
RHR’s expansion plans
As full recovery is underway, Jolly said RHR is gearing up for good business and actively considering expansion of its hotel portfolio to accommodate all market segments from affordable hotel room facilities to ultra high-end accommodations.
“We haven’t finalized the (expansions) sites yet… maybe early next year… But a lot of beauty lies in remote locations, so we will be opening (properties) in the Visayas and Mindanao,” he said.
As SVP-BUGM of the hotel group, Jolly will be handling all of Robinsons Hotels’ local brands including the essential value Go Hotels and Go Hotels Plus, boutique-type Summit Hotels and Resorts, mid-luxury Grand Summit and the first and only Filipino five-star luxury hotel — Fili in Cebu.
He will also oversee the performance of RHR’s international brands including Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu, Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria, Holiday Inn Manila, and The Westin Manila.
RHR has hotel properties present in 19 locations.
In Cebu, the group is slated to open the Nustar hotel next year and the Grand Summit Hotel a year after.
Property advisory firm Colliers Philippines said now is an opportune time for hotel developers to strategically plan their expansion given the recovery in local and foreign tourist arrivals.
“We recommend that developers expand their presence by building more accommodation facilities in key destinations outside the capital region, especially with the Tourism department’s push to boost domestic tourism,” Colliers said.
From 2023 to 2028, members of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) are building 48 new hotel projects with a total of 15,000 rooms, adding to their current portfolio of 40,000 keys.
Hotel developments in the pipeline will be in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Angeles, Palawan, Iloilo, Boracay and Bacolod.
According to PHOA executive director Benito Bengzon Jr., “the hospitality industry will be key in lifting the country’s tourism industry and recovering the pre-pandemic arrivals of 8.2 million.” / KOC