One of the industries still doing well is Philippine tourism. Makati hotels seem to be doing alright, catching bookings from regional execs who have zoomed in on the Philippine market as largely untapped. The occupancy rate in Boracay is bananas, boosted largely by local tourists taking advantage of President Arroyo’s “holiday economics."
This was the gist of the conversation at a recent lunch meeting at Jasmine, Renaissance Hotel’s new Chinese restaurant. Over a meal of luscious lobster, scrumptious taro puffs, juicy har gao, and excellent flower wine, Renaissance communications director Monique Toda mentioned that Manila and Jakarta were two cities still experiencing good occupancy rates.
What about China? Well, Beijing happens to be experiencing an oversupply due to the spirited building that took place leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympics. And Chinese businesspeople, still relatively wealthy compared to their American counterparts, are traveling—and how.
The local tourism industry has begun to recognize the huge potential of the ethnic Chinese market, both domestic and from Greater China. At an HSMA luncheon in mid-March, Sofitel marketing honcho and association president Rose Libongco mentioned that while tourist streams from the US, Europe, and Japan are on a downturn, there was a nascent tourist market emanating from China.
For some tourism industry players, however, the Chinese market is no longer merely promising but on its way to becoming fully realized.
Renaissance Makati, for instance, has someone in charge of making sure the burgeoning ethnic Chinese market is satisfied. Her name is Sharon Lim. Among other things, she makes sure that whatever the hotel labels “Chinese” is authentically so. Sharon also has this unique power of divining what a diner will desire.
I very rarely truly enjoy Chinese food the way it’s usually served in Manila and I never have tea and wine at the same time during a meal—and at noontime at that! But for some reason, the Monkey Pick tea and Osmantus Flower Wine or Gui Hua Chen Jiu (桂花陈酒) went well with everything I ate. Unbelievable.
Ask to meet Ms Lim when you dine at Jasmine and see if I’m right. If not for the food she will suggest, then for how a five-star hotel brand has positioned itself in the Philippines to target the Chinese market. It’s what every industry should be doing to post decent numbers. We can’t all rely on holiday economics, after all.