We take pride in our hospitality industry because other countries use it as a gauge in delivering their own brand of hospitality to their guests. This is why I always look forward to the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) Philippines’ annual Virtus Awards, chaired by my friend Rose Libongco, because I know that its winners are “The Best Of Our Best,” a source of pride for our tourism industry.
Established in 1979, HSMA is the premier organization of hotel sales and marketing leaders in the country. This year’s winners of the 7th edition of the Virtus Awards are definitely outstanding because they had to show tenacity, commitment, and determination to excel in spite of the very challenging business environment brought about by the pandemic, which shut down domestic and international travel.
Okada Manila had to be creative, to keep itself in the consciousness of the public, given the challenging parameters of the “new environment.” It adapted ART as its “battle cry”—Adapt, Restrategize, Thrive, to survive and still excel in the tough “battlefield” left devastated by the surging pandemic.
Such three-pronged approach enabled this luxury integrated resort to reinvent its offerings based on the consumer’s need to experience a sense of normalcy again. Okada Manila was bestowed the prestigious Virtus Award for Most Resilient Business – Property. Conrad Manila was awarded Outstanding Marketing Campaign for their Meetings To Go/Signature Takeaway campaign, which created an effective marketing campaign that drove sales and brand equity through innovation that pushed boundaries and helped move the industry forward—all within a limited budget.
I enjoy attending online meetings that avail of Conrad’s Meetings To Go package because all of us, participants, receive at home, while the meeting is going on, the hotel’s Signature Takeaway Hotbox meal, specially prepared by its executive chef Daniel Patterson. The delivery also includes an eco-tumbler and handcrafted bamboo utensils, definitely elevating the standards of virtual meetings because participants, albeit in separate locations, enjoy a hot, sumptuous meal together.
And I marvel at the unique technology used in the Hotbox. Another awardee is the Chroma Hospitality Group that was given the Most Resilient – Hospitality Group Award because of its ability to keep occupancy rate up with bubble initiatives: in Boracay, where its tourist bubble provided livelihood to the tourism-dependent island; and in Clark, where its impressive athlete bubble became home to the Philippine Basketball Association in September 2020.
The group even bannered its ability to cater to unique dietary needs when it served Kosher meals to the Israeli team that trained here in the country prior to the Tokyo Olympics.
Individual awards were also handed out. Ericka Joy Calamba, Hotel 101 Group’s Sales Executive for MICE, is this year’s Outstanding Sales and Marketing Associate, for her initiative to improve her knowledge and skills while dealing with problems posed by the pandemic, by attending online training and certificate programs
Robinsons Hotels and Resorts Group Director of Sales and Marketing Joy de Mesa is the Outstanding Sales and Marketing Leader, for her creative, innovative, and thoughtful modifications to their sales and strategy, which generated results and profit that met today’s challenges.
Alexis John Aquino, former Marketing and Communications Manager of JPark Island Resort & Waterpark Mactan, Cebu, is the Outstanding Sales and Marketing Manager, for his out-of-the-box ideas and initiatives that created revenue-generating business. In his keynote address, Air Asia Chief Executive Officer Ricky Isla congratulated the winners for their passion and fire to power through the past two years, in spite of the adverse effect of the pandemic on our Tourism Industry. He reminded them, and the HSMA officers, to continue to be top performers in their respective fields of endeavor and to never settle for less.
It certainly was a pleasure and an honor for me to join the board of judges for this year’s Virtus Awards: Ramon Benedicto Alampay of UP-Asian Institute of Tourism; Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) COO Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones; Tourism Industry Board Foundation chair Ma. Christina Aquino; Arnel Jose Bañas, Deputy Secretary of the Philippine Senate; Grace Fernandez of the Anti-Red Tape Authority; and Raoul Roberto Goco, owner of the Degustation Restaurant Group.
The other jurors were J Anthony Management Consultants’ Victoria Lee; Dr. Jason Triton Ligot of Organic Intelligence Consulting; Plus63 co-founder Dan Matutina; Romulo Law Firm’s Shereen Gail Yu-Pamintuan; Gina Barretto-Santos, Vice President at Citibank; Dr. Gloria Wong-Siy, president of the Association of Administrators in Hospitality, Hotel and Restaurant Management Educational Institutions; and Department of Tourism (DOT) Assistant Secretary Howard Lance Uyking.
Throughout the past seven years, the DOT and the TPB have sponsored the Virtus Awards. This year, they were joined by: Atlantis Asia, Conrad Manila, Isentia, Cebu Pacific, Emperador Distillers Inc., Barefoot Wine, and PikNik. HSMA’s current roll of officers includes Chair Margie Munsayac (Bluewater Resorts), President Benjie Martinez (The Bayleaf Hotels), VP Loleth So, Secretary Amie Villena (The Bellevue Hotels and Resorts), Treasurer Desiree Rose de Guzman (Astoria Hotels and Resorts), PR Director Carmela Bocanegra (Chroma Hospitality), Director for Membership Tet Romualdo (The Linden Suites), Director for Programs Michael Albaña (Conrad Manila), Director for Ways & Means Lynette Ermac (Megaworld Hotels and Resorts), and Director for Education Joanne Golong Gomez (Hilton Manila Hotel).
YOUR weekend CHUCKLE
Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens on the countertops?
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