THE Palawan unit of Astoria Hotels & Resorts (AHR) is investing P650 million to expand its operations to address the growing demand from Puerto Princesa tourists.

The hotel operator said in a statement over the weekend it is projecting a 20% growth in its occupancy rate in Astoria Palawan in the next three years, which it said would demand an upgrading of its facilities.

“In the next three years, our growth drivers will be the day-tour packages, the MICE (meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions) market, European leisure travelers and weekend family staycations,” AHR Chief Operating Officer Vivian Ng said in the statement.

We are hoping to increase occupancy by 20% across the board by addressing these different market segments and targeting market by seasonal promotions,” she added.

AHR said it is expecting the development of the Puerto Princesa International Airport to drive more tourists to the site, along with the upgrading of the seaport, widening of city roads and lighting up of the streets.

As a response to the expected influx of tourists, AHR is building a new 52-room building with a private pool, children’s playroom and laundry room. It will also be opening a new seafood restaurant to be called “The Habitat.”

The company said the development works are scheduled for completion by mid-2020, in time for the opening of the new four-lane highway in Palawan.

“With the tremendous growth of the city, plus the completion of the Puerto Princesa International Airport, we expect more local and international tourist arrivals into Puerto Princesa. So we feel that 150 rooms is not enough,” AHR President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey T. Ng was quoted in the statement as saying, referring to Astoria Palawan’s current capacity.

“[W]e think…it’s just but necessary for us to expand now in time for completion probably mid of next year,” he added.

Aside from Palawan, AHR also has a presence in Metro Manila and Boracay. — Denise A. Valdez