SOFITEL Philippine Plaza Hotel said workers who will be affected by the hotel’s renovation in July will be offered interviews in other hotels or else be granted separation benefits.

“There are already more than 200 vacancies waiting for the employees to be interviewed,” Philippine Plaza Holdings, Inc. (PPHI) President Esteban Peña Sy told BusinessWorld by phone on Wednesday. The hotel has nearly 500 workers.

Workers will be offered opportunities in Accor-managed properties as well as other hotels. These range from junior positions to supervisors and managers.

Last week, Accor announced that the 50-year-old Sofitel hotel will cease operations starting July 1 to undergo rehabilitation.

Sofitel also announced a Malasakit Program and appointed a consulting firm to assist with the job transitions.

Mr. Peña Sy said the separation package is around P239 million or $4 million for the employees, adding that the package exceeds the amounts negotiated in collective bargaining by the hotel’s labor union.

PPHI has also sought the assistance of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), the Philippine Hotel Owners Association, and others to help with the placement of its workers.

On May 13, Tourism Secretary Christina G. Frasco met with Sofitel officials and expressed “dismay over the impending closure of Sofitel,” which she described as “an icon of Philippine hospitality for nearly 50 years.”

“We heard the news with much concern, especially that we view our hotel and accommodation sector as a critical component of the industry, especially now that we are making efforts to elevate the status of Philippine tourism vis-a-vis our ASEAN counterparts,” the DoT said in a statement on Tuesday.

The DoT will organize job fairs for affected employees.

Mr. Peña Sy called the rehabilitation a matter of safety at a time when the hotel was doing solid business with an average occupancy rate of 86% in the first quarter.

In the year to date, about 31 fire alarms were triggered and responded to by the fire department. A gas leak was also detected last year.

In September, a water pipe problem forced the hotel to evacuate almost 2,000 guests, who had to be booked in other hotels.

“The hotel engaged independent safety consultants — Bureau Veritas and Meinhardt Philippines — to look into its facilities” he said.

According to the audits conducted by the consultant, DoLE, and the Occupational Safety and Health Center, the building poses a danger to workers and guests.

Mr. Peña Sy said the shutdown was approved by the board and shareholders in April.

“The estimated cost to renovate the hotel, plus adding certain facilities to make it competitive with the newly constructed hotels and hotels under construction, may reach $150 million,” he said.

Sofitel said it will honor engagements and reservations until the end of June before closing its doors. — Aubrey Rose A. Inosante