Hotels turn to online shopping channels for help

Okada Manila (file photo)

COVID-19 may have cramped the style of the hospitality industry, but it has also enabled its many players to “adapt, restrategize, and thrive [ART].”

Okada Manila, this year’s Virtus Awardee as the “Most Resilient Business-Property,” for instance, tapped e-commerce channels like Lazada and Shoppee to increase its revenues, supplementing its direct and online travel agency bookings.

Victor Galzote, director of corporate marketing and communications of the luxury integrated gaming resort, said, “This three-pronged approach [ART] has enabled us to reinvent our offerings based on consumer insights we’ve gathered, which basically show their need to experience a semblance of ‘normalcy’ again.”

These efforts, plus their proactive approach in enforcing strict safety standards, have also earned Okada Manila official recognition by the Forbes Travel Guide/Sharecare Certification as being compliant with all safety requirements. At the time of certification, only 134 properties worldwide were certified, with only three in the Philippines.

Now in its seventh year, the Virtus Awards is an annual project of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association Philippines (HSMA), which acknowledges the various efforts of   hotel sales and marketing professionals in several prestigious categories. The awards have gained even more particular significance in light of the hospitality sector’s struggles to remain in the black even as revenues continue to be tepid. Earlier, the HSMA said hotel industry losses have reached 80 percent since Covid-19 struck and international travel restrictions were enforced.

Similar to Okada Manila, the Chroma Hospitality Group received the Most Resilient-Hospitality Group Award because of their ability to keep their occupancy rate stable through their travel bubble initiatives in Boracay Island and in Clark. Their Clark property, in particular, became home to athletes of the Philippine Basketball Association in September 2020. They were also able to cater to the dietary needs of their clientele, like serving kosher meals for an Israeli team.

Conrad Hotel Manila took the award for Outstanding Marketing Campaign for their “Meetings To Go/Signature Takeaway” campaign, which drove sales and pushed the brand, all within a limited budget.

Meanwhile, individual awards were given to Ericka Joy Calamba, Hotel 101 Group’s Sales Executive for MICE (Meetings Incentives Conventions Exhibitions), as Outstanding Sales and Marketing Associate;  Joy de Mesa, Robinsons Hotels and Resorts Group Director of Sales and Marketing, as Outstanding Sales and Marketing Leader; and  Alexis John Aquino, former Marketing and Communications Manager of JPark Island Resort & Waterpark Mactan in Cebu, as Outstanding Sales and Marketing Manager.

On operating under constantly changing alert levels and pandemic guidelines, Virtus Awards chairperson Rose Libongco said, “[The] hotels have taken the [new government] protocols to heart and have adjusted their systems to make it as seamless as possible for the guests. They have matched hotel operations with all the applicable alert level requirements satisfied.”

She added, “[They] implemented new practices to hang on and steady their foothold. That showcased their resiliency and flexibility to adapt to the unprecedented crisis. We move on with a renewed confidence that the light is getting brighter.”

The HSMA was established in 1979 as an informal gathering of directors of sales and marketing of top hotels in Metro Manila, and has grown over the years to become an organization of 140 hotel and resort properties nationwide.

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