Once tourism activities fully restart, the primary travel influence among tourists would be health and safety, the reasons why vaccination is key in the eventual recovery of the industry.

Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) chairperson Margarita Munsayac said achieving mass vaccination to ensure population protection even by next year is already a “very positive sign” especially for the beleaguered hospitality sector because this would not only bring back confidence to travel but also pave way for the reconsideration of inbound leisure travel, at least through green lanes, translating to more bookings.

“Maybe we will not see that 60 or 70 percent by end of this year but maybe a stretch under the first two months of next year but this is already a very positive sign,” she said at the recent general membership meeting of HSMA.

“This would (make) destinations consider really opening slowly, recovering slowly, bouncing back slowly because we have to ensure everybody that it is very safe to come to our islands and to make travelers confident to consider traveling to the Philippines,” she added.

Munsayac, also the vice president for sales and marketing of Bluewater Resorts, shared that their occupancy on weekends is already growing but does not give them yet the figures they had during pre-Covid times.

“We’re looking forward if the vaccination program will really speed up according to the number of vaccines coming in. We are seeing a slow recovery by the third quarter and we are looking forward to a higher percentage of recovery by the fourth quarter of this year, this is for Cebu,” she said.

With no clear timeline yet when travel green lanes will be piloted, hotels make do with the current market available — local travelers, businessmen, and persons in quarantine.

Some hotels have also sought certificates to become multi-use hotels, which can accept both guests staying for business and those undergoing the mandatory quarantine. Benjamin Martinez, HSMA vice president and the Bayleaf Hotels area director of sales and marketing, said this is among the strategies they are taking to increase business at their hotel.

“We are a quarantine hotel so we are actually focusing on seafarers that are going out but we can’t just rely on that,” he said during the June 15 meeting.

“What we did is actually apply for multiple-use hotel which actually allows our hotel to accept quarantine and non-quarantine guests so with this we are able to accept essential meetings and even social events,” he shared.

‘Virtus Awards’

In the same meeting, HSMA also announced it will proceed with its Virtus Awards to recognize hotels that still cater to their guests’ needs despite the limits posed by the pandemic.

This year, it will also recognize unique anti-Covid-19 efforts by member properties who were able to quickly pivot and address the evolving challenges brought about by the outbreak.

“For the second year now, the Virtus Awards will give due recognition to hotel sales and marketing professionals who make it a point to think out of the box and do what they can to contribute to the growth of their properties amid these most challenging times,” said Martinez.

For this year, the S.N.A.P. (Survive, Neutralize, Adapt Programs) Awards will highlight the best and most creative virus mitigation practices, recovery strategies, business concepts, digital transformation initiatives, audience-specific communications, talent development, workplace safety and wellness, sustainability efforts, and any other related programs.

“While difficult, indeed, it is to continue to fight to thrive amid this perilous pandemic, the members of HSMA persevere and chase dwindling shares amidst the challenges of higher operating costs to abide by required protocols and diminished revenues due to restricted markets,” said Rose Libongco, Virtus Awards chair.

“HSMA remained bullish and positive throughout 2020 and initiated projects that kept many properties afloat—and retained staff. For their valiant efforts, it is fitting that these courageous hoteliers in sales and marketing be recognized,” she added.

The awarding will take place on October 26, 2021. (PNA)