Hotel chains focus on PHL as they expand in SE Asia

INTERNATIONAL hotel chains are keen on signing more properties in the Philippines, especially now that the country has fully reopened to foreign leisure travelers.

In an email to the BusinessMirror, Alexandra Murray, area vice president, and head of Southeast Asia for Hilton said, “We are on a good growth trajectory in the country, having opened Conrad Manila in 2016, followed by Hilton Manila in 2018, and Hilton Clark Sun Valley Resort in 2020.”

She expressed optimism “about the long-term future for travel in the Philippines and our goal is for more signings and openings across both gateway and secondary cities in the market.” She failed to say what other locations in the country are being eyed but was firm that, “Our long-term commitment to the country remains unchanged — the Philippines remains one of Hilton’s focus destinations as we continue to expand on our portfolio of properties in Southeast Asia.”

She noted the vibrancy and dynamism of Manila as well as other cities, making the Philippines a “leading destination for travelers in Southeast Asia.  Before the pandemic, we have long recognized the potential growth of the country’s tourism industry, prompting us to expand to be in line with this anticipated demand.”

Data provided by the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed close to 600,000 arrivals from February 10 to June 5, about 60 percent or 359,371 of whom total were foreign nationals.

Return of Sheraton, Westin brands

This year, meanwhile, will mark the return of Marriot International’s Sheraton and Westin brands in the Philippines. It will be managing the 250-room Sheraton Cebu Mactan Resort, owned by AppleOne Mactan Inc., which is slated to open in September, and the 246-room Westin Manila Sonata Place, owned by Robinsons Land Corp., to open in October. Century Park Hotel used to be managed by Sheraton, while the Philippine Plaza was a Westin.

At the recent World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit 2022 in Manila, Marriot International Group President for International Craig Smith said the hotel management chain “is building more hotels here [in the Philippines],” due to the stronger partnership between the private sector and government, especially in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic concerns.

The global hotel chain already has five hotels in the country: Courtyard by Marriot Iloilo, Conrad Manila, Clark Marriot, Manila Marriot, and Sheraton Manila Bay.

He underscored that in countries like the Philippines which have done away with travel restrictions, “We’ve been blown away by how fast we’ve recovered. We’ve missed every forecast in every place when they reopen, because it’s been so much faster than you anticipated…. I’ve been through four to five downturns in my career, I’ve never seen a recovery this fast.”

Another Radisson in Cebu

The Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) is also keen on expanding its footprint in the Philippines, according to its CEO Federico Gonzalez. He told reporters recently, “We have several hotels here [in the Philippines], but we should have many more. We’re very excited about this country. This is sparked by, I think, when you look to the Philippines to its growth, and the efforts the government is making to increase the awareness of tourism we should be following that kind of thing.”

The global hospitality firm will be opening its first RED property in the Philippines in 2023 — Radisson RED Cebu Mandaue — in partnership with Cebu Landmasters Inc. RHG has been interested in widening its Philippines footprint by pursuing partnerships with other Philippine hotel developers. (See, “Radisson Hotel Group pursues tie-ups with other PHL property owners,” in the BusinessMirror, November 20, 2019.)

Since its entry in the Philippines in 2010, RHG’s main partner has been the SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. for its Radisson Blu in Cebu, and Park Inn by Radisson brand in Davao, Clark, Iloilo, North Edsa, and Bacolod. Prior to the pandemic, the hotel group had targeted to expand its properties to 1,491 rooms by 2022, from 1,198 in 2019.