Is Davao City ready for the new normal?

by Admin-Phmp

Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio

If someone tells you that you have to stay home throughout the day and if you have to leave your house, you have to wear a face mask, you will definitely dismiss it as something out of this world.

Now, if you are out in public places, you have to keep yourself away from other people. And if ever you touch something, you have to wash your hands with soap and water or splash your hands with alcohol.

That seems like something out of a Hollywood movie. It’s a kind of film that will happen in the future. But the future is here. It happened in 2020 when the dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) came to the Philippines.

Just like the rest of the world, quarantine became the norm. Those who were infected with the novel coronavirus – called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), as it is a distant cousin of a viral respiratory disease that was first reported in 2003 – either live (but has to be quarantined for 14 days) or die (and has to be cremated immediately).

Indeed, no one – not even the clairvoyants – expects that COVID-19 will completely change the way people live. Now that cases are going down, the country is starting to open its doors for people to come. And that includes Davao City, the country’s largest city in terms of land area.

Maya Padillo, EDGE’s Davao roving reporter, wrote that the regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) is already “eyeing to increase tourist arrivals by 10% this year.”

Tanya Rabat-Tan, DOT regional director, based the target increase on the 1.3 million arrivals last year.

“Tan reported that in 2019, the region recorded 5.2 million tourist arrivals, which was reduced by 70 percent in 2020 with 1.4 million tourist arrivals and reduced once again in 2021 with 1.3 million tourist arrivals,” wrote Padillo.

Davao City, the home of current president Rodrigo R. Duterte and vice-presidential aspirant Sara Duterte-Carpio, is celebrating its Araw ng Dabaw on March 1. The hotel industry is expecting people to come but is Davao now ready for the influx of people from other parts of the country and those from abroad?

“Yes, we are ready,” said Ken Kapulong, SEDA general manager. “One-hundred percent of our employees are fully vaccinated and only a handful are waiting for their booster shots to be administered.”

According to him, the hotel is still following the minimum public health standards set by the government. “On top of that, we have instituted our SafeAtSeda program of cleaning and disinfection,” he said. “We partnered with Diversey Philippines for this initiative to elevate our standards of disinfection.”

Armando Mortejo, general manager at De’Amore Massage and Spa and managing director of ARM Skills Management and Consultancy Services, echoed the same concern. “We are ready but still we have to fight the disease. Embracing the new normal is quite difficult due to unforeseen conditions of the virus,” he said.

When asked about the health protocols that need to be observed, he said that proper disposal of wastes like face masks must never be neglected. “Cleanliness is our utmost and highest priority,” he added.

Even before the government eased the restrictions, Waterfront Insular Hotel was already preparing. “We’ve had two years to prepare for when the government would ease the restrictions, so I’d say we’re more than ready and are looking forward to serving more guests in the coming months,” said Wilfredo Paolo M. Rosello, the hotel’s marketing communications officer.

While some hotels in Davao closed due to the health crisis, Waterfront continued its business. It came up with some strategies to entice people. “Given the need of people to unwind in a safe public space, we launched our Waterfront Picnics in our garden area,” Rosello said.

Those who want to stay at the hotel are assured that they are very safe. “We have intensified our safety and sanitation measures, especially in our rooms, to make sure that our guests have the best experience,” Rosello said.

In fact, before you can check in, your body temperature has to be checked first. There are alcohols in some places of the hotel that guests can readily use for hand sanitizing. Even inside the rooms, guests get to read the information posted in the mirror about the health protocols that need to be observed.

Now going back to the pandemic. “The pandemic has caused so much negative impact to the (hotel) industry,” Kapulong admitted. “Aside from the health risks of hoteliers at the front line, the major impact was to the status of employment of workers in the industry.

“The crisis has also brought about major changes in the customer behavior,” he added. “The hotel industry must evolve fast to address those needs.”

Waterfront was also affected by the pandemic. “It affected our hotel greatly especially in terms of the number of guests that were coming in,” said Rosello. “We weren’t getting as much revenue so we had to make adjustments such as going into a skeletal schedule for our staff and budget cuts.”

Regarding future plans, Kapulong shared: “We shall focus on employee training and development and employee engagement. They are the core of this business; hence the focus is on them.”

Mortejo has this future plan: “If the market becomes stable already and the spending of consumers goes high, then we can start expanding our business, which we had been planning before the pandemic happened.”

Rosello said of Waterfront’s future plans: “The plan is to keep moving forward and learn to live with the virus. We’ll continue to follow the protocols, observe proper sanitation and support the government’s efforts in dwindling down the number of cases, all while offering exceptional service to our guests.”

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