MICROTEL and TRYP by Wyndham hotels have slowed down their timetable in opening more local branches of their popular hotel brands due to the Covid-19, which has pushed many countries, including the Philippines, to impose inbound travel restrictions.
“Yes, because of the pandemic, some of our projects are put on hold,” said Phinma Microtel Hotels Inc. President and CEO Jose Mari del Rosario in an e-mail interview with the BusinessMirror. “We put on hold two resort projects with 150 keys each [TRYP] and one with a business location with 250 rooms [Microtel]—owing to the fact that uncertainty prevails as to when tourism will pick up. That’s both domestic and international [tourism].”
He added, “We are an archipelagic country and therefore rely on air travel to have guests in our rooms,” citing the three major carriers which have predicted a resumption of travel by 2024. The two TRYPs were to open in Batangas and Palawan, and the Microtel would have opened in Central Luzon.
“But,” del Rosario stressed, “we are still on the lookout and are open for full franchise and management contracts.” Wyndham Hotels and Resorts is among the largest hospitality chains in the world, with 20 brands in more than 80 countries. (See, “World’s largest hotel group to expand presence in PHL,” in the BusinessMirror, March 26, 2018.)
Looking back to 2019, he said their hotels “performed well with a chain-wide 67-percent occupancy, which is almost the same as in 2018. As you know, we are in locations where we are the international hotel chain operating—we are happy with that performance for the 15 hotels we have.”
So the brands were entering 2020 on a high note, like many tourism stakeholders in the country. He said, “2019 was a very good year for both Microtel and TRYP, and we had high hopes that 2020 would be even better. We initially forecasted a 20-percent increase in our revenues from new franchise contracts and improved performances of the hotels.”
When the lockdowns were imposed all over the country starting in March, the company “immediately took steps to conserve cash and manage our expenses. Given the restrictions on land, air and sea travel worldwide, reduction in business travel, and health and safety concerns by travelers, we did a lot of scenario planning. We saw it was going to be a disappointing year—but didn’t foresee that it will be disastrous.”
The company adopted “process re-engineering” measures. “Our business model for Microtel and TRYP are both anchored on providing limited services, but we further limited what we offer in terms of housekeeping services, room set-up, and facilities. We also implemented leaner manning for all hotels—skeleton work force, workday reduction, forced leaves, eliminated/consolidated positions, and deferred hiring.”
To conserve their financial position, the company temporarily closed some hotels, deferred capital expenditures, and restructured their loans.
Seven months into the lockdown, fortunately most of their hotels are “surviving,” said del Rosario. “If not for the repatriated individuals coming in, we would have been in a deeper hole. Our Metro Manila and South Luzon properties accept overseas Filipino workers and returning overseas Filipinos.”
He deigned to forecast when the hospitality sector would eventually recover, “given the changing restrictions and guidelines. It’s very frustrating that government pronouncements are not in sync with each other.”
But, “In fairness, the DOT [Department of Tourism] has been very responsive to the hospitality industry. We see a slow recovery for the hospitality and it will take a few more years to go back to the same levels as in 2019.”
He underscored, in the coming months, guests can expect all Microtel and TRYP by Wyndham hotels “are ready to welcome them. Guests can count on us to put safety first, and will continue to provide them with consistently clean, safe, secure and comfortable accommodations.”