With more than 7000 islands, nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, tropical biodiversity and a great range of cultural traditions, the Philippines is one of the most attractive destinations in South-east Asia. While the country still attracts barely one-sixth the number of foreign visitors per year that regional powerhouse Thailand does, foreigners are increasingly staying longer and spending more during their visits. Foreign and domestic tourists alike will have more reasons to linger in the next few years, when transport infrastructure to far-flung beach resorts improves and the opening of more hotel establishments and multi-used properties.
Among the Metro Manila hotels which opened recently were Conrad, Crowne Plaza, Grand Hyatt, Nobu (in casino resort City of Dreams), Novotel, and two Mercure and two Holiday Inn hotels. Within the next few years, hotels under the management of Novotel Emerald Suites, Okura, Radisson Clark, Savoy, Sheraton, Shangri-La, Swiss-Belhotel and Westin are scheduled to open doors in the capital area. Beyond Manila, activity is more subdued. A Courtyard by Marriott opened in 2016 in the 400-year-old Iloilo City, the urban centre of Panay Island and the Western Visayas. North of Iloilo City, Philippines’ own Crimson Resorts will launch two five-star holiday properties in 2017: one at Boracay and the other at Yapak, a diving resort north of Boracay. Mö ven-pick and China’s Plateno Group also opened five-star properties in Boracay in 2016, while a Dusit Princess and a Sheraton are scheduled to open in Mactan, Cebu, in 2018.
Meanwhile, the 64-story Shangri-La Hotel which opened in Bonifacio Global City in 2016 is set to be a landmark and the sixth-tallest building in the country. Befitting a hotel which claims six-star extras, it has a number of high-end restaurants and retail shops, five fitness zones (including an NBA-grade basketball court), and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification as a green building.
With these developments, tourists are expected to have more options and more reasons to linger longer. But these hotels and world-class establishments alone won’t guarantee tourism boost. The expert services of the sales and marketing professionals in the hotel and resort industry are of utmost importance.
Back in 1976, when Manila was chosen to host the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Conference, there was a sudden surge in hotel building to house the 5,000-strong IMF delegates. But after that, the hotel occupancy was on the wane. The sales directors started putting up their heads together to sort out common problems and come up with viable solutions.
It took three years later, in 1979, when the sales and marketing people of top hotels and resorts in Metro Manila, got together and formed the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association (HSMA) which aims to advance sustainable revenue growth for their industry and contribute to the robust growth of Philippine tourism.
The incumbent HSMA Chairperson Margie Munsayac said that an HSMA member gets to network with fellow hoteliers, get updated on the latest tourism trends and statistics. “Our main mandate is also to provide education and professionalize our ranks. So, in our general membership meetings, we invite resource speakers who can help us grow professionally and even personally, too.”
The Vice President for Sales and Marketing of Bluewater Resorts in Maribago, Mactan Island, Cebu, added: “We try to expand our network. At the very beginning, it was only the four- and five-star properties that were actually members of HSMA. A few years back, we decided to expand and include the three-star properties and maybe soon, even the two-star.”
According to Rose H. Libongco, the longest-serving president of HSMA (1982-2010) and currently Virtus Awards Chairperson, the strongest point of HSMA that has evolved over the years is that it is a respected and recognized voice of the hotel and resort industry in the tourism industry. “Hotels and resorts in the Philippines are the biggest supporters of the Department of Tourism’s missions, marketing programs, and even overseas travels.”
THE VIRTUS AWARD
Thirty-six years later, the 90-member (and counting) HSMA put up its first Virtus Awards “to recognize excellence among the sales and marketing professionals in the hotel and resort industry and spur them on to higher and better performance for a growing tourism economy.”
Virtus comes from the Italian word that means excellent. According Munsayac, sales is a revenue driver and is a very demanding job; and sales people are not rated A for effort but for production. So they thought of an award that would focus on sales and marketing exclusively. “We wanted to point out that hotel sales and marketing are different. Being in sales is a career. You can start in sales and marketing and move up to other areas in the hotel, and even become hotel manager,” Libongco added.
Joining Mansuyac and Libongco in promoting HSMA’s advocacy is this year’s new set of officers led by Christine Ann Ibarreta, president; Joy De Mesa, vice president; Maria Loleth Go, secretary; Jose Rene Lapid, treasurer; Carmela Bocanegra, director for public relations; Michael Jacy Albana, director for education; Ma. Celeste Romualdo, director for membership; Cristina Carreon, director for program; and Jonalyn Agrazada, director for ways and means.
Up for grabs are individual Outstanding Sales and Marketing category awards for Associate, Manager and Leader. A Corporate award will be given to recognize an HSMA member-property with the most Outstanding Marketing Campaign of the Year. The campaign should be built on a single unified theme showcasing the excellent teamwork of the hotel’s sales department. To the winners of 2017 Virtus Awards, congratulations and more power!