Saturday, January 11, 2020

Cebu hotel and resort owners report fewer bookings due to online competition

CEBU CITY – Hotel and resort owners in Cebu said they are reeling from drop in bookings due to competing online or mobile application-based booking sites offering lower prices in lodging or home stays.

Alfred Reyes, vice president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu, Inc. (HRRACI), claimed that an online site that markets condominium units for lodging or home stays has been raking in higher revenues.

“I would say in terms of revenue, between 30 to 40 percent has been lost. That’s a big loss to our revenue,” he said at the side-line of the Association of Government Information Officers forum at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) office here.

Loss of revenues by hotels and resorts also means losses in terms of government taxes, he said, noting that owners of condominium units offered through online sites or applications do not pay taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Reyes, who also manages a big hotel company in Mandaue City, said online sites or applications that compete with hotels and resorts have been offering condominium spaces to foreign nationals abroad despite the absence of government regulations with respect to occupant’s safety and security.

“Who is regulating Airbnb? These are rooms but we don’t know if they have fire extinguishers, if their liquefied petroleum gas tanks are properly attached, and everything,” he said.

Airbnb is an online marketplace for arranging or offering lodging, primarily home stays, or tourism experiences. The company does not own any of the real estate listings, nor does it host events but it acts as a broker, receiving commissions from each booking.

Reyes suggested that local government units (LGUs) put in place regulatory procedures over online-booked condominium units under their respective jurisdictions.

“The challenge that we have is that regulating hotels right now is under LGU. So LGUs should also act on it, BIR should also act on it, the Fire Department should also act on it, and the police should also act on it,” he said, claiming that there are condominium units in Cebu that are being occupied by Chinese nationals who are into offshore gaming operation.

Efforts of hotel and resort organizations in assisting the Department of Tourism (DOT) in marketing activities abroad would be wasted if visitors opt to book via online sites, Reyes said, lamenting that hotels and resorts have been investing for marketing strategies to perk up bookings but visitors are lured to online booking sites.

Reyes said owners of hotels and resorts in the country have made representations with the DOT after starting to feel the negative impact of the operation of online hotel booking sites five years ago, he said.

Carlo Anton Suarez, president of HRRACI, for his part, said although the annual Sinulog Festival on January 19 is approaching but hotels in Cebu could still hardly get bookings. “Well, it’s been affecting the whole market share. We want to promote Cebu but how can we promote Cebu? We need everybody’s help,” Suarez said.

Gelena Dimpas, chief of tourism operations at DOT-Central Visayas, said hotel and resort players have already been informed about the agency’s actions. She said the DOT central office has tasked the Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation to look into their concerns.
“It is not a lone battle of DOT and we look forward to benchmarking on other countries nga niagi na pud ani nga phase and how they resolved it,” she said. (John Rey Saavedra)

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