Workers laid off during pandemic return to Mactan hotels, resorts

President of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu said hotels and resorts are now on their way to full recovery, two years since the pandemic hit the industry.

Dale G. Israel

Dale G. Israel

Philippine Daily Inquirer


FIVE-STAR CHARM Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, is among the busiest high-end tourist accommodations on Mactan Island before the pandemic struck two years ago. Its management, however, was forced to lay off more than 300 workers due to health and mobility restrictions at the height of the pandemic in 2020. —PHOTO COURTESY OF PLANTATION BAY RESORT AND SPA

September 29, 2022

MANILA — Resorts and hotels on the island of Mactan in Lapu-Lapu City have started to rehire workers who were laid off at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Alfred Reyes, president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu Inc. (HRRACI), said hotels and resorts are now upbeat on their journey to full recovery, two years since the pandemic battered the industry.

He said occupancy rates in about 20 major hotels and resorts on Mactan Island are between 30 percent and 40 percent.

“We all know that Mactan is very much dependent on its leisure market. We’re hoping things will be much better when our target markets (Japanese and Koreans) will return here at the end of the year,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

HRRACI, the largest business organization in Cebu with about 100 members, attributed the improvement of hotel occupancy levels to the increase in domestic travelers and the ramping up of domestic flights nationwide.

Local visitors

“Our marketing strategies need to be very aggressive. As long as the borders are open, it would be much easier to do the campaign for our target markets,” said Reyes, general manager of Bai Hotel.

“If the borders are not open, nothing much will flourish. Once it’s open, we have to be very aggressive in our marketing campaign,” he added.

Five-star Plantation Bay Resort and Spa on Mactan Island has brought back at least 181 employees since the start of 2022 when restrictions were eased and the tourism industry was reopened, according to its general manager, Cherry Allego.

She, however, admitted that their guests consisted of mostly local tourists and that their occupancy rate was only between 20 percent and 30 percent.

“There are only a few foreigners, perhaps because of the hassle of coming here to the Philippines. Each airport has its own requirements and protocols,” Allego said.

Despite this, the resort decided to rehire its former employees, hoping that the number of tourists would increase by December due to the Christmas holidays, and January 2023 when Cebu brings back the Sinulog Festival.

Plantation Bay had 465 workers before the pandemic was declared in March 2020. Only 100 were retained since July 2020 while the rest found jobs in business process outsourcing companies or started their own businesses.

Allego said this year, the resort hired 77 new employees as visitors started to come back. Plantation Bay currently has 358 employees.

Industry players appealed to the government to “jumpstart” the tourism market, especially for foreign visitors.

Allego hoped that there would be a single travel policy in the country amid the easing of health and mobility restrictions during the pandemic.

She urged the government to link up with airlines for chartered flights and come up with package tours, just like what is being done in Turkey, Thailand and Vietnam.

“That will help the Philippines to really boost the (tourism) market,” Allego said.

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