By Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte, Reporter

HOSPITALITY GROUPS expect a rebound in tourism as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination rates continue to improve and travel curbs are further relaxed around the country.

However, new and more transmissible COVID-19 variants may threaten the tourism industry’s recovery.

Filinvest-led Chroma Hospitality, Inc. is seeing signs of “revenge travel” after an uptick in bookings for the rest of the year.

“We are expecting a rebound in travel because of the easing of restrictions and we already feel the increase in bookings as the vaccination rates continue to increase, especially for our resorts and leisure hotels,” Chroma Hospitality Country Manager James M. Montenegro said in a separate e-mail on Nov. 11. 

Discovery World Corp. likewise saw higher demand for its resorts, Discovery Shores Boracay and Club Paradise Palawan. Boracay has scrapped the RT-PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated tourists.

“We see the market demand increasing in both beach resort properties,” said Claire D. Bernabe, director of sales and marketing for both properties, in an e-mail on Nov. 4.

“We hope to [maximize occupancy rates] while adhering to the guidelines of the local government unit (LGU) and Department of Tourism. Our suites in Boracay are spacious, as well as on our private island in Coron, and our commitment to care program, Home Safe, ensure safety protocols,” she added.

Hoteliers are hoping to see a sustained recovery in travel and tourism once the country opens up to foreign tourists. The Philippines is allowing fully vaccinated tourists from low-risk countries to enter the country starting Dec. 1.

“We remain hopeful for the successful bounce-back of the tourism and hospitality industry, as we have seen in other countries,” Robinsons Hotels and Resorts said in an e-mail on Nov. 16.  “We hope to work together with our peers, hotel groups and government agencies to pragmatically prepare for the re-opening of travel and to be able to serve our guests’ needs and accommodation requirements.”

Hotels and resorts have adjusted their operations amid the pandemic in order to protect guests.

Robinsons Hotels and Resorts said that it is providing “tailor-fit accommodation packages” for balikbayans who need quarantine accommodations, corporate groups, and leisure guests.

Chroma Hospitality said its new offerings were a hit in the local market. These included hosting sports “bubble groups” at Quest Clark, offering work from the beach or work from home packages, and opening new dining outlets.   

“Everyone will have a big dependency on local domestic market for a start so competition is crucial and the best, unique and timely offers will prevail,” Mr. Montenegro said. “We have a lineup of promos focusing on the local market that invites everyone to explore and support Philippine local destinations first.”

Robinsons Hotels and Resorts said it has tapped digital technology solutions in its operations, introducing self-check-in kiosks and digital payments. The group also launched a food and beverage e-commerce initiative via its online store and food delivery platforms.

Many hotels and resorts are also offering discounted rates to attract guests.

“For guests who are not sure when they can travel for whatever reason, our ‘Break Free Buy Now, Travel Later’ vouchers provide such flexibility,” Discovery World’s Ms. Bernabe said.

However, hospitality firms still must comply with government guidelines on operational capacity.

“As much as Chroma Hospitality’s managed hotels want to maximize its occupancy, the hotels are restricted to do so because of the government’s capacity guidelines,” Mr. Montenegro said.

“This is also understandable for us as we do not want to take the risk of the resurgence of COVID-19,” he added.

The Philippines has seen a steep decline in new COVID-19 cases in recent days. However, the World Health Organization has classified the B.1.1.529 or Omicron coronavirus variant as a “variant of concern,” saying it might be more contagious than previous ones.

The Philippines has already suspended inbound flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique as well as Hong Kong.