CONTRARY to the claim made by Cebu City Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera that hotels and pension houses in Cebu are now experiencing a surge in reservations from eager tourists looking forward to the Sinulog Festival, a group of hotel operators said they are, in fact, barely receiving bookings related to the January 2024 event.
“Not even 20 percent, even in big hotels,” said Alfred Reyes, president of the Hotel Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu Inc.
Last Nov. 21, Tuesday, Pesquera claimed hotels were now 80 percent booked for “Sinulog sa Sugbo Philippines” scheduled on Jan. 21, 2024.
“So far, hotels are 80 percent booked for the Sinulog Festival. Since it is Sinulog, we already expect accommodations to receive early bookings from tourists,” she said.
Pesquera said a hotel located at the South Road Properties (SRP), the venue for the Sinulog, has secured majority of the bookings.
For his part, Reyes said he expects most hotels to begin receiving bookings related to the Sinulog Festival yet in January.
Reyes said the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in the travel landscape, especially in hotel and flight bookings. He said in the past, guests would typically make reservations at least two months ahead, guests now tend to book seven to 14 days before the event.
Currently, people are still planning for the Christmas and New Year holidays, he said.
But even for the Christmas season, Reyes said, hotels in Cebu have not gotten that many reservations. Reyes is vice president for operations and general manager of Bai Hotel in Mandaue City.
He acknowledged that Cebu is not the destination that first comes to mind when planning for a holiday getaway. He noted travelers prefer to go abroad or to Baguio City, which he said is now having full bookings.
Reyes hopes that come January, tourists will flock to Cebu for the Sinulog Festival.
“As of now, we really do not know how it goes,” he said, adding that promoting the festival to tourists remains a challenge primarily because the final schedule of events and festivities has not yet been released by Sinulog Foundation Inc. and other stakeholders.
Reyes urged organizers to already announce Sinulog-related schedules so tourists can plan ahead. He said travelers might choose other countries like Vietnam and Thailand, which may have more affordable accommodation options than Cebu.
Meanwhile, Pesquera is standing pat on her claim that hotels now are receiving massive bookings due to Sinulog.
In an interview on Wednesday, Nov. 29, Pesquera cited Mayor Michael Rama’s invitation to other local chief executives through the League of Cities of the Philippines headed by Rama.
Pesquera said Cebu City’s international sister cities were also invited to witness the festival. However, there has been no confirmation as of yet.
Cebu City has a sister-city agreement with Xiamen, China; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Yokohama, Japan; Haarlemmermeer, the Netherlands; Yeosu, South Korea; Salinas, California; Chula Vista, California; Seattle, Washington; Guadalajara, Mexico; Kitchener, Ontario; Honolulu, Hawaii; Parramatta, Australia; Sabrosa, Portugal; Izmir, Turkey; Barcelona, Spain; Thessaloniki, Greece; and Vladivostok, Russia.