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Hotels to DOT: Events will boost revenues

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SPOOKED by the recent closure of the Makati Shangri-La Manila, hotels  are now appealing to the Department of Tourism (DOT) to allow them to hold banquet events to help boost their revenues.

The request was made by the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association Inc. (HSMA) which includes quarantine and staycation hotels. A copy of their position paper, dated February 6, 2021, and addressed to DOT Undersecretary for Legal and Special Concerns Edwin Enrile, was obtained by the BusinessMirror.

“We are appealing for reconsideration to allow MICE, socials and wedding events in both quarantine and staycation hotels that [have] established health and safety protocols in place [on] the premise that quarantine guests are not allowed to use the same entry/exit points, public area/s and venues that are being used by MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions] and social event guests,” said the position paper signed by HSMA Director of Education Loleth So and HSMA President Christine Ann U. Ibarreta.

The 150-strong association of  hotel sales and marketing professionals  noted that hotels have been “practicing and implementing strict sanitation protocols with government-issued guidelines…our number one priority.”

Financial woes continue

They underscored, however, the continued financial hardships of most hotels, even though many of them host quarantine guests. “Note that the occupancy levels may be high for some hotels but…rates extended to this market segment is way below the usual rate—some [hotels] almost just break even.”

Staycation hotels are still registering “minimal occupancies….  Food and beverage business is not yet 100-percent operational.”

The group recommended health and safety guidelines to ensure that quarantine and banquet/MICE guests don’t interact in quarantine hotels such as: separate elevators and entrances, separate floors/wings for room accommodations for events that require rooms, restrictions on what spaces banquet guests can go to within the hotel, among others.

According to Ibarreta, the association “spoke with the Bureau of Quarantine, and they said [our proposal] was okay provided there is no mixing of [banquet and quarantined] guests. They drafted the guidelines to be signed by DOT and DOH [Department of Health].”

Despite the ongoing pandemic, quarantine hotels had been receiving inquiries “for about 50 to 200 persons for weddings and small meetings,” she said.

The iconic Makati Shang, which previously had been a quarantine hotel for returning Filipinos and expats during the pandemic before being allowed to offer staycations, closed its doors on February 1, citing “continued low business levels.”  (See, “Another Covid victim: Makati Shang closes doors in February,” in the BusinessMirror, January 20, 2021.)

‘No excess alcohol for socials’

Among HSMA’s proposed guidelines include using a “maximum 50-percent capacity in function rooms for both socials and MICE,” with strict social distancing of one meter between each attendee and table setup of at least two meters apart.

The group also proposed that socials and weddings don’t go beyond three hours, while MICE events that go more than two hours, “must have outdoor breaks,” in which time their conference rooms will be thoroughly sanitized.

For socials, only sit-down service, or managed buffets, will be allowed, emphasizing, “No excess alcohol be served to avoid rowdy behavior,” and bearing in mind local government regulations on alcohol consumption for such events.

Quarantine hotels under the HSMA last year also appealed to the DOT to allow them to offer staycations. This was firmly turned down, however, by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, who said, “The  medical experts in the IATF say it’s not safe to mix [both quarantine and staycation] guests.” (See, “Hotels offering staycations can’t offer quarantine space,” in the BusinessMirror, October 15, 2020.)

The HSMA position paper and proposed guidelines were discussed by members and their senior hotel managers with DOT officials on February 5.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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