Alfonso Chusuey grew up in a family of Filipino-Chinese businessmen. His father, Dr. Henry Chusuey, founded the Henann Group of Resorts, which is credited for pioneering the hotel industry in the world-famous island of Boracay. As the eldest of three children, Alfonso is expected to continue his father’s legacy, as well as further grow the family-owned and -operated company.
As Henann’s executive vice president, Alfonso is keeping the torch alive as he takes charge of the company’s first hotel outside Boracay—the Henann Resort Alona Beach in Panglao Island, Bohol. And while the rest of the company is busy developing four newly acquired properties in Boracay, Alfonso is making sure that their Bohol flagship will be a world-class destination of its own.
“I grew up in a Chinese family. And ever since I was young, [the rule is]if the [family]business is good [you are]expected to be in the business,” the candid Henann heir told print reporters from Manila as he hosted a dinner party at the Henann Resort Alona. In May, Alfonso opened the doors of the resort for a press preview during the soft-opening stage.
Beyond fulfilling his family’s expectations, the younger Chusuey happily related that in the last few years, he has realized why such a tradition exists among Filipino-Chinese families. He shared, “You take care of it because it’s yours.”
Biggest in Panglao
A resort brand long established in Boracay, Henann has finally entered a new tourism market via Bohol. On Panglao Island sprawls the one and half kilometer Alona Beach, which has been dubbed as “Little Boracay” for its white sand—only less finer—and establishments that line the beachfront.
It is on this stretch that Henann decided to build is first resort outside Boracay, which happens to be their largest property thus far, occupying 6.5 hectares of land. Once fully completed, it will have an astounding 400 guest rooms, seven food and beverage outlets, a convention center, a gym and a spa, a chapel and numerous swimming pools.
How Henann Alona Beach came, according to Alfonso is a very interesting story. He recalled, “We had an undeveloped property in the middle of the two municipalities here in Panglao [namely Panglao and Dauis, which was our first option [for development]. One time, when my dad was here in Alona Beach, he wanted to have a drink at a restaurant [of an old hotel]but it was closed because of labor problems.”
Ever the visionary, the older Chusuey met with the foreigner owner of the said hotel the very next day. And then and there, he acquired the property where Henann Alona Beach now stands.
For Alfonso, the whole incident was a blessing for their investment. “Guests have something more to do here [through various establishments], and the location is very lively. And remember, we are only using 6.5 hectares of the property, which means we have the option for expansion once tourist arrival in Bohol reaches its full potential.”
Hopes are indeed high for the province, which is still recovering from the setback of the 2013 earthquake. A new airport to begin with will soon be constructed right on the island of Panglao.
Even on its soft-opening, Henann Resort Alona Beach has already unveiled its world class amenities, which the Chusueys believe are key to guest satisfaction.
It begins with the overall architecture of the property, which according to Alfonso, takes its cue from the swimming pools. “For the architecture, our central point is always the pool just like in [our resorts in]Boracay. But everything is made better and bigger here,” he shared.
Indeed, massive, blue pools are scattered all over the property. The one right outside the lobby, for example, can be accessed directly from the guest rooms. Another pool is solely dedicated to the private villas, which are still under construction. There is also one strategically located near the beachfront, overlooking the sun, sand and sea.
And by the way, each of these pools have a sunken bar for a complete relaxation experience.
Currently, Alona operates 100 out of the 400 guest rooms, which will be fully operational once the expansion and renovation of the original structure are completed. Accommodations will vary from deluxe to premiere, and suites to family rooms, as well as beachfront villas.
For the interiors, each room features coastal inspired furniture and accents with Filipino touches. Amenities will include a private terrace, bathtub and shower, as well as cable television, in-room safe, and wireless Internet access.
This month, the resort will also unveil a three-storey, 2,160-square meter convention center that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests for different gatherings.
Come second quarter of 2015, the resort will begin operations of signature Henann brands like the Kai Spa, the all-day dining buffet Sea Breeze Café, and the Western fine dining restaurant, Christina’s.
Completing the list of amenities are an open-air venue, a VIP lounge, fitness and business centers, and a mini-shop.
While Henann’s Panglao resort will always be compared to its Boracay properties, Alfonso believes that the Bohol property has a unique advantage over the others, which is the province’s diverse tourist attractions.
“Here in Panglao, you go on more tours than Boracay,” he enthused. Through partner tour operators, hotel guests can visit Bohol’s famous Philippine Tarsier inside the tarsier sanctuary in Corella, and the Chocolate Hills in Carmen. They can even choose to experience eco-tourism destinations like the Loboc River Cruise, and go firefly watching at the Abatan River.
Culturally and historically, the province also boasts of century-old churches like Baclayon and Dauis, both of which were partially damaged by the 2013 earthquake.
Meanwhile, just around Panglao, adventures await guests via island hopping to Balicasag or Pamilacan where they can swim, snorkel, or dive to see Bohol’s rich marine life. If they’re really lucky, guests can even spot and play with dolphins.
“From a tourist point’s of view, there are really many attractions here. There’s more to do in the day, and when they come back here, they can swim in the pool or relax in the spa,” Alfonso added.
Before he was assigned to oversee the expansion and construction of Henann Resort Alona Beach, Alfonso was first based in Boracay to run Henann Garden Resort.
Asked by The Manila Times how his transition was, the Henann heir replied, “It’s not really a transition—it’s added work.”
“My job is 24/7 except when I’m sleeping—but I even dream about it,” he laughed.
Never one to complain, Alfonso admitted that he still dedicates two hours of his day in Panglao answering calls all the way from Boracay’s Henann Garden. Thankfully though, he was able to bring several of his best staffers in Boracay to Bohol to properly train his new employees at Alona.
“We always hire from the local community because it has always been Henann’s advocacy to create jobs for the Filipino people,” he related.
Asked to share what has been the most important lesson he learned from the family business, Alfonso Chusuey readily answered, “You have to be fair with everyone. Be fair to your guests, even your suppliers and contractors. As long as you’re are fair, everyone will be happy.”