Philippines Travel Guide
Manila will be saying its goodbyes to one of the oldest luxury hotels in the city next month: Mandarin Oriental will be closing on September 9 after nearly four decades of operating. As much as the décor in the above Deluxe Room feels like it needs an overhaul, the choice was made to shut the 413-room hotel altogether.
A replacement hotel is already in the works, though on a smaller scale. Come 2020 (which sounds terribly far away, but really, half a decade is nothing in hotel years), a brand new hotel with 275 rooms will open. The location will stay roughly the same, in a mixed-use development in the central business district of Makati City; no other details are known at this point.
In the aftermath of Haiyan, the category five typhoon that hit the country almost two weeks ago, tourism officials in the Philippines have been urging visitors to return. Tourism is, after all, a major contributor to the Philippine economy, providing work for more than 10 percent of the population.
We received the following updates about the status of resorts in some of the most popular tourist areas:
Hotel News / Manila Hotels / Philippines Hotels / Mall Hotels / Conrad Hotels / Hilton Hotels / Hilton HHonors / → All Tags
It's no surprise that the upcoming Conrad Manila will share intimate relations with its neighbor, the sprawling Mall of Asia complex. Why? The manager of the upcoming hotel, which is set to open in 2015, is a company called SM Group. And as Wikipedia so eloquently points out, the Mall of Asia "is a shopping mall owned and developed by SM, the largest mall chain owner and developer in the Philippines."
So, yeah. Conrad's first property in the Philippines will be pretty much just a place for Hilton HHonors members to spend lots and lots o' dollars at the fourth largest shopping mall in the world, which gets a reported 200,00 visitors per day.
We're guessing Hilton is pretty stoked to get a piece of that pie. And after all, mall hotels can be kind of exciting (Minnesota's new Radisson Blu would likely agree). So...what else can we expect from Conrad Manila when it opens?
Hotel Openings / Philippines Hotels / Raffles Hotels / Hotel Residences / Extended-Stay Hotels / → All Tags
Located in Makati City, the area of Manila known as the "Wall Street of Manila", the 30-story hotel will offer guests a choice of a short or long stay. No matter your length of stay, you'll sleep in the lap of luxury because this place only offers suites. In fact that's the smallest unit you can get, with 32 suites for short stays, 110 apartments and 127 residences for extended visits.
It's 'firsts' all around as this is the first hotel-residence for Manila and the first new hotel to open in the city in 20 years, so you can imagine how exciting the news is. Interestingly, the building will also house a Fairmont, another first.
We sometimes spend time talking about off-the-beaten-path locales, and we're positive you can relate to daydreaming about getaways that make it feel like you've actually, well, gone away. Call us crazy, but fighting for pool space with families and tanned singles doesn't scream "vacation" as much as it resembles the hotel version of a mall. For the more ambitious travelers wanting to go off-grid for a short while, the Philippines is a destination that may not immediately come to mind, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile—the opposite, actually.
We discovered Sonya's Garden, a lush bed and breakfast, when a local led us into Tagaytay, a small city not far from Manila. The website uses descriptions that are too easily thrown around by most island hotels and resorts: "private paradise," "exotic," "idyllic." Yeah, we've heard it all before. Hyperbole or not, Sonya's is still a comfortable, clean, and actually quiet place to spend your holiday; if you've traveled to the traffic and business congested center of Makati City, you know how valuable this is.
This is the case with the newest addition to the Shangri-La hotel family, the Shangri-La Boracay in the Philippines. To reach the 219-room, 36-villa exotic wonderland with 3,800 feet of secluded beach, guests must first fly into Manila, then take a hopper flight 45 minutes south to Caticlan airport, from where another 30 minutes of land and sea transfers launch. Once you hit the sand, however, the Boracay enclave sets out to envelop you in 5-star luxury with one of the Philippines' largest free-form swimming pools, activity pavilions, and the peace of a surrounding nature preserve.
You may be removed from civilization, but get this: the in-room broadband internet is free! It better be too, as we looked into room rates for April and they're looking to start around 20,580 Philippine pesos, but don't let all those digits fool you; that's $428.58 USD. At least you'll still be able to check your bank account balance online and do currency conversions on Google.
[Photo: Shangri-La Boracay]
Here are two words we don't usually read in the same sentence: "non-profit" and "luxury". It's a curious idea but that's the idea behind a new eco-resort in the Philippines. We're already quite enamored with the Palawan region of the Philippines so the planned Cacao Pearl enticed us just from the location--but we're confused about the non-profit luxury idea.
The Cacao Pearl will include 60 residences on a private island--think thick rainforest, coconut palms and white beaches--and they're promising both sustainable development and "sustainable enjoyment". Their target market is what they call the "grown-up backpacker", presumably ones who've saved a bit of cash, because you'll be able to buy one of these residences and then either rent it to other vacationers or use it yourself. It does sound pretty luxurious, with an infinity pool, spa, organic gardens and all designed by Antonio Calvo who was the art director for films like "Love, Actually" and "Pride and Prejudice".
Apparently the non-profit bit comes into play by donating any profits to supporting local social and environmental programs, so you can frolic in your infinity pool with a clear conscience. The residences are already for sale but won't be complete until 2011.
By all accounts, 2007 was a banner year for Philippine tourism, with the number of foreign arrivals topping the three million mark (the previous record for yearly visitors was 1.9 million). According to Department of Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, 2008 promises to deliver even better numbers, with his department focusing on the "opening of new hotel projects and properties."
One of the most ambitious of these new projects will be the Regent Manila Bay by hotelier Carlson, bringing 5-star opulence to the Philippines.
The Regent Manila Bay will be part of a unique hotel-within-a-hotel development, offering luxury accommodations within the Radisson Hotel Manila Bay. The hotels will share a common structure but will have many separate amenities, such as driveways, entrances, lobbies, guest facilities and staff. It will also include a signature restaurant, lounge, fitness center and swimming pool -- all exclusively for the use of Regent guests.
The 80-rooms, including 10 "basic" suites, 69 executive suites and one presidential suite, all overlooking scenic Manila Bay, are expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2009.
A Regent hotel inside a Radisson? That's almost as crazy as the three-hotels-in-one that is set to open in Times Square. Almost. But we don't think anything is crazier than that.
In bar openings this month ... the new Martinis bar has opened at the Mandarin Oriental Manila in the Philippines. Situated in the Makati area, along with plenty of other nightlife, Martinis seems to be aiming for a pretty upper-class crowd; the General Manager said:
We designed Martinis as a premier bar and meeting place, where customers can listen to light jazz, relax, and enjoy a license to chill
Interior design follows a more or less art deco style and the baby grand piano in the middle is intended to up the sophistication factor. There are plenty of cocktails and of course, in honor of the name, a big variety of martinis--a few interesting sounding ones on the list include ginger martinis, sake martinis, dirty martinis and (the one we really want to try) choco-chilli martinis. Live music starts every night at 7pm and carries on until two in the morning so there are plenty of chances to check out Martinis, before you check out.
[Photo: Allan Reyes]
As winter storms brew here in the Northeast, our search for the perfect overwater bungalow is intensifying. Know an overwater bungalow resort hotel we need to check out? Hit us on the tip line.
Turns out HotelChatter has a bunch of daily readers in the Philippines. Cool. As a hat tip, we picked out our favorite Filipino resort, which just so happens to be an overwater bungalow property, go figure.
El Nido Lagen Island Resort has 18 over water accommodations (51 total cabins) all in a quite, idyllic cove hidden by limestone cliffs and island forests. Furthermore, there is no shortage of castaway activities--snorkeling, swimming with jackfish, and canoeing are all available for guests.
You have to hop a island jumper from Manila, then take a boat (free for guests) in order to get to Lagen Island. Oh, and there is U.S. State Department travel warning on the Philippines, has been since last June, so you will officially qualify as an "adventurer" upon your return from paradise.
After the jump, we have enclosed a El Nido Lagen Island video, set to Jordan Knight's Tender Love to serenade this resort. We can't take credit for the video, nor the somehow appropriate soundtrack. If you don't have our sense of humor, hit mute before pressing play.
· Overwater Bungalows [HotelChatter]
Most people will agree with the statement "the customer is always right" in the hotel business. But to take this to the higher level and state that the "customer is the king" is pretty incredible.
The Fridays Boracay Hotel states this belief and holds true by offering details such as limousine service from the airport, a free beverage and "warm welcome" upon arrival at the hotel, along with its "luxurious rooms." According to the hotel's guest reviews, they are keeping their word too.
The resort promotes minimalism when it comes to necessities at the hotel, since Kings rarely pack for themselves:
Things you have to pack for traveling to Fridays Boracay Hotel, Boracay Island are just clothes and some private things. Any other parts for your daily life Fridays Boracay Hotel already prepared for you as their slogan "Customer is the king".
The best part is that you don't have to have the wealth of a King to stay here. Just $65.00.
If you have a ton of money, here's an idea: build a glamorous hotel in the Philippines...and do it fast! Until the Philippines gets more hotels, they actually don't really have room for any more visitors.
The Manila Bulletin Online explains how there just isn't room for the amount of tourists interested in the Philippines:
Tourism Secretary Joseph 'Ace' Durano said the Philippines has now reached its full capacity for international arrivals expected to surpass the targetted three million by the end of this year. Durano said it means 'even if 10 million people would come to visit the Philippines if we can only accommodate three million then you can only get three million. We have already hit the ceiling of our capacity in both air seats and hotel rooms.'
We must admit, that whole supply and demand thing really makes this country all the more appealing. Now that we know that space is precious and limited and that guests may be turned away because there just isn't enough rooms for them, we are desperate to get our invitation. We'll walk past the "return--no room" line with a snide grin at the airport, yet hoping all the while that our hotel has indeed, kept our reservation.
Image via adlaw/Flickr
· Lack of hotel rooms and air seats may slow down int'l arrivals in RP [Manila Bulletin Onine]