HRRAC members struggle to fill rooms for Sinulog

THE Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) is struggling to fill in the rooms for this year’s Sinulog celebration due to intense market competition.

HRRAC president Carlo Suarez finds this a bit “alarming” as hotels used to enjoy advance bookings for Sinulog.

“(Occupancy) is slowly picking up. We have two weeks left to promote Cebu and Sinulog. But this is alarming,” he said.

To boost hotel bookings, Suarez urged stakeholders to give them the guidelines to promote the Sinulog festivities.

“It would be advantageous to everybody if they give us the calendar of activities and also the guidelines of the Sinulog parade route,” he said.

He said member hotels are striving to advertise the month-long Sinulog celebration to boost their occupancy.

“It’s been a challenge that we’re not getting (that many) hotel bookings, not like three years ago,” he said.

The decline in hotel bookings, Suarez said, can be attributed to the fast expansion of home-sharing platform Airbnb, whose competitive prices are taking a toll on hotels.

“All of those who wanted to participate in the festivities are already booked in Airbnb because they are cheaper,” Suarez said.

Airbnb currently lists 60,000 properties in the Philippines alone. These properties are condominium units, vacation homes and houses, among others.

HRRAC member hotels have at least 2,000 rooms.

The Department of Tourism 7 is expecting millions of tourists, both foreign and local, to visit Cebu City to join the Sinulog celebration in January.

In 2018, hotel rooms were fully booked for the Sinulog weekend despite the Cebu City government’s strict rules on liquor and street parties.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said “regulated” street parties will come back for this year’s Sinulog.

“Street parties? If regulated, I am for it, and we will do something to regulate it,” Labella said in an earlier interview.

However, a liquor ban will still take effect. Sinulog 2020 will be officially launched on Jan. 10. (JOB)