By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios
There’s no denying that the pandemic had truly struck hard in the industry of accommodation, with grand events and year-long reservations had to be canceled for the time being until all the health and safety protocols were implemented and the adaption to the digital technology to make the customer experience safe and efficient.
Slowly but surely, the Philippines navigates in the most challenging times for our country, and even the whole world as COVID-19 made the world stood still. But indeed, Filipinos’ resilience and determination to deal with the challenges proved to be strong, as the country slowly gets back on its feet and the tourism industry sees more silver linings since the time that the economy was opened and the travel restriction was lifted, a more robust tourism industry is seen in the coming years.
Needless to say, the hotel industry has come back to life with scientific and internationally-accepted health risk mitigation protocols in place. And now on its way to recovery and the promising forecast of 6.7 percent over the next 10 years has spurred hope and inspiration to many industry stakeholders in the country.
Mindful of how travel and tourism have breathed life into the Philippine economy, Virtus Awards recognizes the crème de la crème of the industry.
After two years of gathering and celebrating via laptop screens, the Virtus Awards – the annual peer-recognition event of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), finally held its first face-to-face awarding ceremonies.
Held at Okada Manila last October 25, the 2022 Virtus Awards recognized, as in previous years, three winners for its individual categories: for Outstanding Sales & Marketing Associate, the top plum went to Jhune Niño Calinawan, Banquet Sales Executive of Quest Hotel & Conference Center-Cebu. The Outstanding Sales & Marketing Manager award was given to Marie Antonnette de Belen, Conrad Manila’s Senior Sales Manager. Recognition for Outstanding Sales & Marketing Leader was awarded to Michelle Angeli Crudo, Director of Sales at Novotel Manila Araneta City.
For its Outstanding Marketing Campaign award, recognition was given to Newport World Resorts (NWR) for its “I Love Earth” program, which was established as the resort group’s commitment to sustainability after seeing the disruption and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. NWR houses five international hotels, a shopping mall, casinos, entertainment venues, and MICE facilities. As part of its post-pandemic plans, they are consolidating and integrating all sustainability efforts throughout the property complex under “I Love Earth.” The program’s main innovation is the creation of the I Love Earth Council, which quickly assessed and identified priority areas for collaboration. These priorities have since become NWR’s basis for its sustainability targets.
Congratulating this year’s winners, Virtus Awards chair Rose Libongco said that their achievement marked the start of their “odyssey” in the industry.
“Every day forward is your opportunity to prove that you are the right winner. Watchful eyes are on you to continue to demonstrate excellence in purpose, plan, and action thereby educating others directly, inspiring by example, and converting others towards the philosophy of winning until you form a like-minded army who will make your objectives doable, replicate them and eventually perpetuate your ideals of success,” Libongco said.
And with the theme “Breakthrough 2022,” outgoing HSMA president Benjie Martinez said that this year’s winners are helping the industry break free from the pandemic by “embracing opportunities and relentlessly pursuing the business for [their] respective properties despite the challenges.”
He added, “For fostering creativity and bringing in new perspectives and ideas that drive customer loyalty, and for taking pride in doing quality work regardless of the task, you are worthy of the Virtus Awards.”
Also recognized at this year’s Virtus, which is now in its eighth year–its most auspicious, as Libongco pointed out–were the winners of 2020 and 2021, respectively: Okada Manila Events Executive Erika Denice Patajo and Hotel 101 Group MICE Sales Executive Ericka Joy Calamba (Outstanding Marketing Associates); El Nido Resorts Senior Sales Manager Pio Sanchez and JPark Island Resort & Waterpark Mactan, Cebu Marketing and Communications Manager Alexis John Aquino (Outstanding Marketing Managers); Conrad Manila Sales-FiT Director Bae Eun Joo and Robinsons Hotels and Resorts’ Sales and Marketing Group Director Joselina de Mesa (Outstanding Marketing Leader).
Started in 2015, the Virtus Awards is organized by HSMA with the support of Co-Presenters Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, Gold partners Atlantis and Okada Manila; Silver partners Dida Travel, Crimson Filinvest, and Media Meter; Bronze partners IDeaS, Maya Business, and Newport World Resorts; Wine & Snack Partner EDI (Barefoot, Harveys, and PikNik).