Hotel industry expects surge in holiday bookings

PLAYERS in Cebu’s hospitality industry are expecting a surge in bookings come holiday season.

Although, foreign arrivals have yet to return to the pre-pandemic levels, Alfred Reyes, president of Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu, said arrivals have been increasing since the reopening of the country’s borders.

“Arrivals from the Korean market is gradually increasing and we have been seeing this, especially in Mactan,” said Reyes.

The Philippines opened its borders on Feb. 10, 2022.

South Korea is Cebu’s top tourist source market even during the pre-pandemic. This year alone, South Korea sent 46,075 visitors to Cebu from January to August, according to the latest available data by the Department of Tourism 7. Arrivals last year stood at 2,282.

Reyes said besides foreign arrivals, the industry also expects surge from the balikbayan market this coming December.

He added that the resumption of airlines such as Eva Air and China Airlines serving Cebu will propel the growth in arrivals especially the balikbayans.

“There’s high chances our balikbayans will fly passing Taiwan to get to Cebu,” he said. “We now have chances of getting them again. If we continue to have more flights.”

The easing of travel restrictions as well as the voluntary use of mask mandate are boding well for tourism, according to Reyes.

“The confidence is there already and these are good signs,” he said.

Steven Yu, past president of Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the further easing of the mask mandate and the easing of arrival testing protocols is a welcome development for the business community and economy.

“It will greatly enhance consumer activities and inbound tourism, and spur our local economy. It is great news amid the negative external factors, and a very brilliant move by the President and his cabinet,” he said.

Occupancy

City hotels, according to Reyes, are enjoying 50 to 60 percent occupancy level. The food and beverage segment including function rooms and restaurants as well as local meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) are already picking up at 80 to 90 percent level.

Asked about the impact of inflation on travel spending, Reyes said the industry hasn’t feel yet the reduced spending among travelers and Mice clients.

“So far we are not seeing that (reduced spending). But we don’t know what will be the effect on that next year. But so far this year, if you’ll ask about availability of function rooms, especially for December, you”ll have difficulty getting one because of all these parties lined up,” he said.

But inflation’s impact on hotel operations is evident on the cost of labor, rising energy prices, and coping with supply chain issues.

Reyes said some hotels opted to close some floors to manage the impact of inflation while waiting for the full rebound of international arrivals.

2M arrivals

Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, reported that visitor arrivals to the Philippines have reached the two million mark and accounted for more than P100 billion in estimated visitor receipts since the start of the country’s relaxation of border restrictions to foreign tourists last Feb. 10. The figure surpassed the DOT’s 1.7 million arrivals projection for the year.

“This goes to show that there is such a huge demand for travel into our beautiful country and that the Marcos administration’s prioritization of tourism is placing our country on the right track to recovery,” said Tourism chief Christina Garcia-Frasco in a statement.

The DOT’s report as of Nov. 14 showed a total of 2,025,421 visitor arrivals to the Philippines. Of this number, the majority or 1,487,343 (73.43 percent) are foreign tourists, while 538,078 or 26.57 percent are overseas Filipinos.

According to the DOT’s statistics office, visitor arrivals from February to September 2022 raked in an estimated P100. 7 billion, recording a 1938.14 percent increase from the P4.94 billion for the same period last year.

In terms of number of foreign tourist arrivals count per country, the United States of America (USA) continues to hold the first place with 385,121 (19.01 percent). South Korea and Australia came in second and third, with 285,583 (14.10 percent) and 96,297 (4.75 percent), respectively.

Landing on the fourth and fifth spots are Canada with 89,248 (4.41 percent) and the United Kingdom with 77,267 (3.81 percent).

Completing the top 10 are Japan with 75,564 (3.73 percent), India with 41,292 (2.04 percent), Singapore with 39,801 (1.97 percent), Malaysia with 35,128 (1.73 percent), and Vietnam with 32,970 (1.63 percent).