Virtus 2020: Celebrating Grit and Creativity in the Face of Adversity

It was, categorically, the worst of times for the tourism and hospitality industry. Covid-19 literally ground everything to a halt, just when traveling had already become second nature to many Filipinos.

But while the industry took a hit, many refused to crumple and fall; in fact, the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) Philippines found pros in Tourism and Hospitality who were more than resilient in the face of a pandemic—they were creative, productive, and proactive.

It is these individuals that the HSMA recently recognized through the 2020 Virtus Awards, the Philippines’ most prestigious annual awards event for hotel sales and marketing professionals. The highlight of this year’s awards are the Champions of Resilience—created to recognize the contributions of individuals and institutional team/s in addressing the challenges of the pandemic since the lockdown in March.

The Champions of Resilience Awards are divided into three categories: Individual, which was won by Ma. Elena Cecille M. Daugdaug, Sales Manager of Quest Hotel and Conference Center Cebu; Team, won by Luxent Hotel under the leadership of Melanie Pagkalinawan, General Manager; and Marketing Communications, won by Chroma Hospitality, as led by Carmela Bocanegra, Vice President for Sales and Marketing.

According to Margarita Munsayac, HSMA chair, Daugdug was chosen out of seven other nominees because of her remarkable dedication, perseverance, business agility, and incredible resilience during the pandemic.

Not only did our winner protect the business, but our winner also grew the business that contributed to the retention of a sizable percentage of hotel staff,” says Munsayac.

As for Luxent Hotel, their win was the result of everyone’s holistic approach toward mitigating the effects of the pandemic. “By ensuring the safety and well-being of its employees and their families, which included mental health awareness and providing alternative platforms to earn money as partner-providers of the hotel, the employees were fully engaged in proactively increasing revenue streams of the hotel while reducing its expenses during this time of adversity,” says Munsayac.

As for Chroma Hospitality, its marketing campaign titled “Safely Apart, Closer at Heart,” was chosen for being the most comprehensive and well-planned campaign among four others, and for its clear messaging. It was also voted the “most digi-centric,” shifting strategies and priorities in the online sphere not only to thrive amid today’s unusual challenges but also to bounce back stronger.

According to Virtus Awards chair Rose Libongco, it was highly important for the HSMA to continue with this tradition because, despite all the hurdles they encountered these past few months, the organization has also continued to be
active and to make itself available to its customers and stakeholders.

Anyone can imagine that it was easy to give in to despair and frustration when travel had stopped, governments imposed quarantines, new standards of hygiene and customer care were imposed, and no cure was in sight. But thankfully, sales and marketing people are endowed with an indomitable spirit. When down and out, Sales & Marketing get up and roll in, when pushed against a wall, they break the wall; when down in the dumps, they dig for the gold. Sales and Marketing continue to be the lifeblood for the company -always working, thinking, creating, never giving up,” says Libongco.

As in previous Virtus Awards, honors were given to the Outstanding Sales and Marketing Associate, which was conferred to Erika Denice S. Patajo, Events Executive of Okada Manila, for her ability to tackle challenges with a joyful and positive outlook, deliver quality service despite limitations, and maintain a harmonious working relationship with colleagues; Outstanding Sales and Marketing Manager, a title now held by Pio A. Sanchez​, Senior Sales Manager of El Nido Resorts, because of his genuine pride of purpose and successful out-of-the-box programs that were both innovative and adherent to the company’s core values and business propositions; Outstanding Sales and Marketing Leaders, given to Eun Joo Bae, Director of Sales – FIT at Conrad Manila, who bested six others because of her ability to create positive, defining moments for high-level protocol-sensitive clients that paved the way for a niche for the hotel; and, finally, Outstanding Marketing Campaign, an accolade taken home by Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, represented by Dave Pimentel, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Margot Calimon, Public Relations Manager, for their “Bid to Forever” campaign, which generated excellent buzz, was well-defined and concise, and an innovative approach for sourcing new markets.

Lauding the fact that many hotel sales and marketing professionals still participated in this year’s Virtus Awards, HSMA president Christine Ann Ibarreta says the annual event is “a timely reminder of the determination, innovation, and commitment of hotel sales and marketing professionals across the country.”

She adds: “They have all been working extremely hard to reopen, to welcome guests back safely, and to continue to provide excellent service. The Virtus is our humble way of giving them the recognition they truly deserve.

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