Unknown to many, hoteliers have also shown grit and courage to serve returning Filipinos despite the risk of being infected in the present Covid-19 pandemic.
As of this writing, the total returning OFWs are at 153,000, and 8,329 are expected this first week of September The statistics reflect how the pandemic has affected many of our countrymen with an additional 9,900 confirmed cases abroad (730 deaths), DOLE, in June, stated it expects 400,000 OFWs to be displaced.
It is not a simple task, however, of selling and booking their hotels but a series of procedures they have to follow and the risk of being infected themselves.
According to Christine Urbanozo-Ibarreta, president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), almost all hotels bit the bullet of selling very low rates to survive to tap on this market opportunity although some 5-star hotels remained closed (Peninsula, Okada, City of Dreams, Solaire, etc).
“80% of HSMA member hotels entered the status of being a quarantine hotel, even provincial hotels,” Ibarreta revealed.
“For some hotels they can only go as far as 50% on GCQ, 80% occupancy on MGCQ as they have to allot rooms for their staff to sleep on,” she added.
Sweat and fatigue equity
Typically, an 8-hour shift during pre-Covid 19 involves sales calls that are done face-to-face, some friendly chit-chat with clients over lunch or snacks, birthday visits, and the like,
Now, under quarantine conditions, a survival mode has hotels cutting rates even with bloated costs due to multiplier effects in terms of health protocols like wearing masks, social distancing, regular disinfection, and, in addition for the sales staff, there is the stress in the workplace,( on-site and off-site) misinterpreted government regulations, extending shifts to ungodly hours to serve late-hour airline arrivals that are taking its toll.
“From the time of visiting OWWA to sell our hotel to going to the airport to welcome guests, waiting for them to go through immigration, corresponding RRT-PCR swabs and transporting them to their respective hotel, we are wearing PPEs to protect us from being infected,” Ibarreta related.
Fear of the unknown
As their experience and exposure to the pandemic deepens and they learn that some of their friends or relatives have been infected, the hoteliers admit that the risks are high and yet, the call to serve and the responsibility as Sales and Marketing people still remain top of mind.
“With no hazard pay, we wait at airports with the assigned buses , still doing all protocols. We feed them when they wait in the bus; but a number of ROFs (returning overseas Filipinos) skip the process by mis-declaring or “inventing” non-existent hotels just to speed up their way home and to avoid expenses, not availing of the assigned transportation and hailing taxis instead,” she laments.
Of course, there is the need for speed and lack of funds that may be the cause for all.
The RT-PCR swab test alone will cost a minimum 4,500 PhP on PAL, hotel bookings will cost an added 3,500 maximum depending on the type of hotel. A minimum stay is 2 days (maximum 5 days) if one is negative. It is difficult especially when other airlines except PAL have no (facilty) for contract tracing, what if the pax is positive?
PAL has an ongoing one-stop airport arrival account that will ensure that the arriving OFW already has a booked hotel while waiting for their swab results, avoiding OFWs who skip this step.
These are just some among many matters of concern that the hoteliers encounter in their everyday lives during the pandemic in their effort to heed the call for heroes to their families, their hotels, and the industry itself.