EVEN as the government tries to encourage balikbayans (Returning Filipinos) to visit family and friends this Christmas season, tour operators are already complaining that their customers have to pay higher air and hotel fares during the period.
A seasoned tour operator who requested anonymity told BusinessMirror: “I have balikbayans coming in November and some in December. But quarantine hotels increased their rates from December. It’s a P1000 difference [from their regular rates]. “
The tour operator added: “There is no difference between coming in December. The guest will always be confined to the four corners of his room. I will understand if they [hotels] will open additional facilities like the swimming pool or the gym and they will spend more on electricity. Are they expecting a lot of arrivals? I do not know. So I’m going to talk to the manager tomorrow and ask him why the extra charge? Can’t we get the same rate, until we all recover from this pandemic? Hope the government can regulate this!
This was confirmed by another tour operator, who added: “Air fares are on the rise. Hotels and resorts are boring [because they’ve raised their rates]. They really can’t improve their natures to make money.
Due to appeals from tourism stakeholders, the Interagency Working Group for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has previously eased entry requirements for balikbayans.
vaccinated abroad. For those coming from the United States or Canada, all they need to do is present their state or federal vaccination certificate upon arrival in the Philippines. (See “State Immunization Certificates Now Recognized for Entry into the Philippines,” in BusinessMirror, October 15, 2021.)
“No Christmas supplement”
Asked for comment, Benito C. Bengzon, executive director of the Philippine Hotel Operators Association (PHOA), said, “Hotels do not impose a Christmas surcharge. The higher rate during Christmas is driven by supply and demand. With higher demand, tariffs should be higher. Tour operators know this.
He added: “We assure you that the hotels have cooperated with the government and other private sector partners for the safe resumption of tourism in the country.” The PHOA had no projection of the average increase in occupancy rate with the return of balikbayans this Christmas season. “Each hotel has its own room occupancy projections based on the targeted customers, balikbayans included, ”Bengzon said.
STR data showed that the average hotel occupancy rate in the Philippines was 48%, year-to-date through July 2021. By market, hotels in Manila recorded the occupancy rate on higher at 70%, followed by Quezon City at 65%, Muntinlupa and Pasay at 61%, Makati at 52% and Mandaluyong / Pasig at 47%. Most hotels in Metro Manila operate as quarantine hotels, with the exception of a handful which are also certified as multi-use or for stay hotels.
Meanwhile, Virg Vergara, a Los Angeles-based Filipino-American, has said he is giving up on going home to Cebu because the plane tickets are just too expensive. “I just checked out PAL, LAX-Cebu – the lowest rate is $ 1,604 per person Dec. 17-29,” he said, adding, “My personal threshold is $ 1,200. therefore generally does not travel in high season. But before the pandemic, LAX-Cebu in May cost $ 800 per person. “
He noted that his friend who was supposed to return home to Manila said, “The LAX-Manila fare is $ 1,900. She balked at the price because she was planning to travel with her husband and two children.
PAL officials have yet to respond to this document’s question at the time of publication.