Domestic tourism driving hotel occupancy: group

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

February 17, 2023, 9:30 pm Updated on February 17, 2023, 9:38 pm

<p>(File photo)</p>

(File photo)

MANILA – Occupancy rates in some hotels are exceeding pre-pandemic levels due to pent-up demand as well as “strong domestic tourism” in the country, a hotel sales and marketing group said.

In an interview this week, Hotel Sales and Management Association (HSMA) president Loleth So said occupancy has already reached 80 percent in January 2023, up from 60 to 70 percent in the same period prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid) pandemic.

“Based on our January numbers, we've already gone over pre-pandemic levels so that's how positive it's looking at the moment,” she told reporters, referring to hotel occupancy, average daily rate, and revenues.

With numerous flights suspended during the pandemic, So said hotels and travel agents had to look at different ways to generate revenue and turned to domestic tourism.

“Domestic tourism is very strong right now. Although inbound, I would say is starting to come in, but it's not as strong as pre-pandemic levels but we're hopeful,” she said.

“So really, the opportunity right now is domestic tourism,” she added.

She also attributed the growth to the increased use of online booking platforms during the pandemic.

“It evolved so much that I think that's the good side of the pandemic because people started to look at other ways in terms of booking channels,” she said.

‘Attracting more visitors’

For the Department of Tourism’s part, Secretary Christina Frasco said the government would continue supporting the hospitality sector and other stakeholders by implementing measures to attract key markets to return to the Philippines.

Among these initiatives are the possible issuance of electronic visa (e-visa) to China and India as well as the proposed value-added tax (VAT) refund program for foreign tourists.

Frasco said the DOT is working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration to be able to start issuing soon e-visa to both nations as one of the top tourism markets of the Philippines.

Frasco was the guest speaker at the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) 1st General Membership Meeting 2023 and Induction of the new Board of Trustees last Feb. 16.

Meanwhile, So agreed on the importance of collaboration and participation of all the tourism stakeholders to speed up the industry’s recovery.

This year, So said the HSMA would focus on growth, education and community buildings to provide more avenues for success for its member-hotels and resorts, particularly in the domestic market.

"What's most important is driving revenues toward our hotels and resorts, all the while building on the sense of community and comradeship among our members that we've cultivated and fostered since our group's founding in 1974," So said.

On March 28-29, the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) and HSMA will be holding the Travel Exchange as their first revenue-generating activity where over 150 properties will engage in tabletop business with more than 100 of PHILTOA's members to boost domestic travel through their destinations and services.

Travelers can also look forward to the September Online Sale (SOS) which was initially established as a response to the impact of the pandemic on travel and tourism in 2020.

"This year, SOS will be bigger, because we are opening that up to tour operators and airlines," So said.

The HSMA has over 150 members and is the premier organization of hotel sales and marketing leaders in the Philippines. (PNA)