Metro Manila — June 6, 2020 — The OLLI Consulting Group Inc., in partnership with JCI Manila, hosted an online seminar entitled “Harnessing the Hotel Industry’s Resilience Reflex in the New Normal” on the JCI Manila Facebook Page.

As event speakers, OLLI consultants Dominic Dorol, Jose Vicente Camus, Maria Paula Tolentino, and Atty. Ariel Arriola offered insights on the four pillars of the hotel industry business:  operations, finance, reputation management, and legal compliance that could help the industry navigate the new normal following the CoVid-19 global pandemic. With guest of honor, Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon of the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) in attendance, he shared the government’s plans and programs for the tourism industry during and after the crisis, while the OLLI ConsultingGroup’s Principal and CEO, Atty. Leo Dominguez served as the event’s moderator.

Effective Operational Management and Robust Financial Support

“The hospitality industry was the first to get hit by the pandemic, and will probably be the last to recover,” said Dominic Dorol, OLLI’s lead consultant for the Hospitality & Tourism Industry. He offered important advice on how hotel executives should adopt moving forward. He also reminds them not to lose touch with visitors. “When you put in your additional security and safety measures, please make sure that they are still of a service nature.” Mr. Dorol also recommended hotels to create a 28-week implementation plan which they can adjust according to government regulations on business resumption.

Joey Camus, OLLI’s consultant for Finance and head for Public Infrastructure, affirmed the need for planning, not just operationally but also financially. “The public and private sectors are doing a lot to stimulate the economy,” he shared. Among these programs are the Philippine Department of Finance (DOF) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)’s PH-PROGRESO Program, the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act (FIST). Through PESA, hotels and other tourism-related MSME can avail of interest-free loans and fiscal incentives.

Mr. Camus also cited private sector-led financing programs for supplier networks and MSMEs, such as the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA)’s COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program. “Hospitality businesses should keep themselves open and updated with policy developments. They should find programs that match their needs and apply for those programs,” he recommends. Finally, he advises hoteliers to get liquid, update and negotiate with lenders, and continue investing in their business. According to Mr. Camus, “having a well-defined strategy moving forward that attracts new customers to your hotel” is something that banks look at when considering enterprises to finance.

The Importance of Communication and Legal Compliance

Maria Paula Tolentino, OLLI’s head for Online Reputation Management, touched on the importance of effective communication in a landscape where consumption patterns and customer perceptions are evolving at an unprecedented rate because of the pandemic. She observes, “most customers avoid personally shopping for groceries, relying instead on delivery services, thereby accelerating the development of online sales and promotion. As society phases into a hygiene-conscious world, “customers will focus more on their choices, mainly food. They will rely more on whether the source of the ingredients is reliable, good enough quality, have been safely handled, and are rich in nutrition.” A hotel’s service is something customers will comment on online, especially now that everyone exercises more caution than before. Having a crisis management plan in place is crucial to keep the hotel’s positive image intact amidst problems that may arise.

A solid legal foundation is also vital to managing the operations and maintaining a hotel’s reputation. Atty. Ariel Arriola, OLLI’s consultant for Legal Affairs, discussed the importance of complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act (R.A. No. 11058), the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act (R.A. No. 11332), Data Privacy Act (R.A. No. 10173), especially in gathering customer and employee data, and in reporting cases of CoVid-19 to local government units. To ensure compliance, hotels must design and implement programs and train personnel for COVID-19 reporting, occupational safety and health, and data privacy.

Timely Government Response

According to DOT Undersecretary Bengzon, “the Philippines is one of the very few countries that has gone the extra mile to look after its foreign and domestic tourists.” He reports, “the DOT, together with its attached agencies, assisted around 37,000 stranded tourists affected by travel restrictions implemented across the archipelago by facilitating bookings, arranging border passages, sweeper flights, land, and sea transfers, and distributing tourist hygiene care kits. Remaining resolute and optimistic, the DOT also conducted numerous seminars for tourism frontliners and industry stakeholders through its online learning series. The DOT presented its three-year Tourism Response and Recovery Plan, which enables them to partner with the private sector to protect and ensure employment and business survival. USec. Bengzon emphasized the importance of legal compliance in sustaining the country’s tourism industry. “The expectations of tourists from our products and services post-pandemic, specifically on cleanliness and hygiene, will be high. And these will have to be met to regain their confidence in us.”

USec. Bengzon shares, “Our goal for the country is to deliver remarkable service when our guests, pack their bags, fly to, and wake up in the Philippines.” Mr. Dorol adds, “the world around us has changed, but the Filipino hospitality within us has not.” This same spirit of Filipinos will drive the hospitality industry and jumpstart our recovery.