Soaring domestic tourism raises hotel occupancy rates

Strengthening domestic tourism in now pushes up hotel occupancy rates 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 hotel occupancy has already reached 80% in January 2023, up from 60 to 70% prior to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

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

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.

For the Department of Tourism, 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.

DOT, she said 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) First General Membership Meeting 2023 and Induction of the new Board of Trustees last February 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 hold 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. ####