The hotel industry in this city is benefitting from the growing meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibits (MICE) tourism, the new direction that is being pursued by the local government here.
“Before, Iloilo City was festival driven, now we are MICE driven because most of the tourists are delegates of conventions,” said City Tourism and Development Officer Junel Ann Divinagracia in a recent press conference with selected media held at the C’s by L’Fisher at the Iloilo Business Park Festive Walk Mall in this city.
Divinagracia said 50 percent to 70 percent of the 1.2 million tourist arrivals last year were due to MICE.
She said that with the six-month closure of Boracay Island in 2018, some of the conventions were diverted to Iloilo City. It was also fortunate she said that stakeholders from this part of the country have prepared destinations for tourists who opted to divert to Iloilo rather than proceed to Boracay.
“It was of great help that we are ready,” she said.
In a follow-up interview Thursday, Divinagracia said a MICE alliance composed of tourism stakeholders has been created. Last week they met with lawyer Helen Catalbas, Tourism Regional Director, where they were asked to submit their packages.
“We will be lobbying, we will be bidding for international events here in Iloilo,” she said.
Jennifer Palmares-Fong, vice-president for sales and marketing of the Megaworld Iloilo Business Park (IBP), stated that they are preparing for the influx of guests due to MICE.
“Right now we have a total of 475 hotel rooms and we will be adding. By the end of 2022 we will have 1,000 rooms to accommodate travelers here,” Palmares-Fong added.
Courtyard by Marriot Hotel and the Richmonde Hotel have a total existing capacity of 475 rooms, with an additional 405 hotel rooms courtesy of Belmont Hotel Iloilo.
Harold Brian Geronimo, Megaworld’s senior vice president and head of public relations and media affairs, said there are boutique hotels coming in at the IBP. They will be constructed in a nine-hectare commercial district just beside Courtyard.
He said that with their current capacity, IBP can only cater to around 10 percent of the close to four thousand hotel rooms needed for big conventions.
Currently, there are only around 4,700 hotel rooms in the city including those of small businesses.
Once they increase to 1,000 hotels rooms, still the number only represents 20 to 30 percent of the total room capacity of the entire city, he added.
“IBP cannot accommodate everyone. Everyone else in Iloilo will really benefit and IBP inspires smaller businesses to really upgrade,” he stated.
Palmares-Fong said that the coming in of Megaworld is “not a threat” because they have a focused market. While they cater to MICE executives, their staff and those that they could not accommodate spread to other hotels.
“We are not killing small businesses, we are actually helping because it brings business to the city,” Palmares-Fong said.
She added that the vision of their chairman for the township to be able to cater and make Iloilo as a convention city is “taking place already”.
Divinagracia said the MICE tourism is a big help to budget hotels. “They are very happy because in 2018, they have high occupancy rate due to regional conventions,” she added.
This year, the city has many upcoming conventions. She added that every month they expect two to four big conventions happening in Iloilo City.
Apart from boosting the hotel room capacity, Geronimo said they also beefed up security in consideration of the upcoming conventions.
They are also building a transportation hub to serve a lot of routes such as from the airport, ports, and other routes from the provinces.
The tourism officer added that last February, Senator Franklin Drilon requested the Department of Tourism to prepare a travel mart to further promote Iloilo. (PNA)
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