TO highlight the resiliency of hotels and resorts amid repercussions and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) Philippines has given special awards to its member properties that have successfully pivoted their business models or strategies to recoup their losses and sustain their operations.
Now on its seventh year, the HSMA organized the Virtus Awards to recognize the country’s most outstanding hotel sales and marketing professionals.
Luxury integrated resort Okada Manila earned the prestigious Virtus Award for Most Resilient Business – Property this year for its “Adapt. Restrategize.Thrive” (ART) business approach after being hit hard by the pandemic.
“Okada Manila was one of the recipients of the special awards because of its three-pronged approach, which “enabled us to reinvent our offerings based on consumer insights we’ve gathered, which, basically, show their need to experience a semblance of ‘normalcy’ again,” said Victor Galzote, Okada Manila director of corporate marketing and communications.
Part of this approach was also to effectively maximize its participation in e-commerce channels through special monthly online sales on Lazada and Shopee, which served to supplement its direct and online travel agency (OTA) bookings.
These efforts, plus their proactive approach in enforcing strict safety standards, have also earned Okada Manila official verification under the Forbes Travel Guide/Sharecare Certification as compliant with all safety requirements.
At the time of certification, only 134 properties worldwide were certified, with 17 based in Asia, and only three in the Philippines.
The second special award went to the Chroma Hospitality Group, which was honored the Most Resilient – Hospitality Group Award because of their ability to keep occupancy rate up with their bubble initiatives: first, in Boracay where their tourist bubble provided livelihood to the tourism-dependent island; and in Clark, where their impressive athlete bubble became home to the PBA in September 2020. They were even able to cater to the dietary needs of their clientele, like serving kosher meals for an Israeli team.
The traditional individual awards were handed to Ericka Joy Calamba, Hotel 101 Group’s Sales Executive for MICE, as Outstanding Sales and Marketing Associate; Robinsons Hotels and Resorts Group Director of Sales and Marketing Joy de Mesa, Outstanding Sales and Marketing Leader; and Alexis John Aquino, former Marketing and Communications Manager of JPark Island Resort & Waterpark Mactan, Cebu, Outstanding Sales and Marketing Manager.
The Conrad Hotel Manila was awarded Outstanding Marketing Campaign for their Meetings To Go/Signature Takeaway campaign, which went beyond creating an effective marketing campaign that drove sales and brand equity and became a true innovation that pushed boundaries and helped move the industry forward—all within a limited budget.
Rose Libongco, HSMA Chair said “the Virtus Awards have allowed the HSMA and its outstanding members to move on with a renewed confidence that the light is now getting brighter.”
“Encouraged by the upbeat outcome of HSMA projects, we are conscious of the next steps to keep going and building on achievements. We see it best to remain united and be ahead of the game, be strong and keep the momentum towards developing an emerging future,” she added.
Jurors at this year’s Virtus Awards include AirAsia CEO Ricky Isla, UP professor Ramon Benedicto Alampay, Tourism Promotions Board Philippines COO Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones; Tourism Industry Board Foundation chair Ma. Christina Aquino; Arnel Jose Bañas, Deputy Secretary for Administrative and Financial Services of the Senate of the Philippines; Grace Fernandez, Director for Compliance Monitoring and Evaluation of the Anti-Red Tape Authority; Executive Chef Raoul Roberto Goco of the Degustation Restaurant Group; J Anthony Management Consultants Managing Director Victoria Lee; Dr. Jason Triton Ligot, Director of Health Communications at Organic Intelligence Consulting, Inc.; Plus63 co-founder Dan Matutina; Romulo Law Firm senior associate Shereen Gail Yu-Pamintuan; Gina Barretto-Santos, Vice President for Learning and Diversity Ph at Citibank N.A.; Dr. Gloria Wong-Siy, founding president of the Association of Administrators in Hospitality, Hotel and Restaurant Management Educational Institutions; Howard Lance Uyking, Department of Tourism Assistant Secretary for Branding and Marketing Communications; and Philippine Chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association chair Roberto Zozobrado.
HSMA’s official partners for the Virtus Awards are the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, as well as Atlantis Asia, Conrad Manila, Isentia, Cebu Pacific, Emperador Distillers Inc., Barefoot Wine, and PikNik.