• DOT to pursue new rating system despite objections

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    THE Department of Tourism (DOT) will pursue implementation of the new star rating system for hotels and resorts in the Philippines despite moves by some lawmakers in the House of Representatives to block the program.

    The star rating system is part of the DOT’s bid to develop the quality of accommodations in the hospitality industry in a bid to boost tourism, and DOT Assistant Secretary Art Boncato Jr. said the they will proceed with the announcement of new star ratings.

    “The mission is to announce the accredited hotels before the year ends,” told reporters.

    Boncato explained that a House hearing was called to make some clarifications on the star rating system.

    “In fact, the one who sponsored the hearing is Congresswoman Gwen Garcia of Cebu, based on a complaint that was shared with her by one of the stakeholders in Cebu. But the whole idea of the meeting was to listen to both sides,” he said.

    “First and foremost, this is really a mandate of RA 9593. The Tourism Act of 2009 has really mandated the DOT to work on competitiveness, to enhance the competitiveness of the tourism industry. And this is one of the major directions,” he added.

    Boncato said that primary tourism establishments — meaning hotels, resorts, tour operators, tourist transport, tour guides, and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) facilities and organizers – must be accredited.

    “But on top of accreditation is also the star rating system for the accommodation sector because we have rolled out new standards. There’s a new standard for accommodations, hotels, and resorts. Of course we worked with experts in coming up with assessments for star rating and this covers the physical well-being of the accommodation as well as some points on service,” he said.

    “We were able to explain that to the body. And there was also a suggestion to really fine-tune some areas of the assessment questionnaire. Of course the DOT has acknowledged that fully, since this is the first time that we’re doing this, it’s a new set of standards rolled out, we have been working on its improvements since day one,” he continued.

    “Even if we have rolled it out, we have started to listen to stakeholders, to experts, to our partners on how to really fine-tune the certain areas of the standard. And that was basically what they were asking for, that’s why at the end of the hearing, they were urging the DOT to hold in abeyance the implementation of the star rating system,” he added.

    Not cast in stone

    He said the new standard is not cast in stone and “is something that we shall continually improve on.”

    “And the number one reason for that is because we really want to listen to our stakeholders first and foremost. Because the standard is not for the DOT, it’s really for the stakeholders,” he said.

    The star rating system will replace the dated classification system of Economy, Standard, First-Class and Deluxe for hotels, and A, AA and AAA for resorts.

    The new set of accommodation standards – composed of five levels ranging from one to five stars – is a point system based on availability of facilities and services, condition and quality of a specific facility, as well as the quality of service.

    A total of 1,000 points is the maximum number of points that can be achieved, equivalent to the following: One Star (251 to 400 points), Two Star (401 to 550 points), Three Star (551 to 700 points), Four Star (701 to 850 points), and Five Star (851 to 1,000 points). A five-star accommodation is characterized by its world-class facilities and meticulous service exceeding a guest’s expectations.

    About 730 hotels and resorts in the Philippines have been covered by the assessment already.

    “So what they gave us as important inputs, we really appreciate them and then we look for ways how to address them. But clearly, like how those standards were put together, it does not take overnight. That’s why we’re working now with the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP),” Boncato said.

    “They’ve been part of this. In fact TCP was in the hearing and the message basically of the TCP was that this is exactly what we asked for. The TCP was first in asking to improve the competitiveness in the tourism industry and the star ratings as necessary and that was articulated to me personally by Rosana Tuazon-Fores, the president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines,” he said.

    DOT is also working with the Philippine Hotel Owners Association led by Art Lopez, he said.

    “They are the owners of the properties and they’ve embraced the fact that we have to rate ourselves because they understand that when we rate ourselves, it’s not highlighting Filipino competition among Filipino stakeholders, it’s really the Philippines competing on a larger scale, that we’re competing with Asean, we’re competing with Asia, and the rest of the world,” he said.

    “The general message is about not to stop our efforts to compete and to be competitive,” he said. VOLTAIRE PALAÑA

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