#TripTips: How to get the best deals for Holy Week and summer staycations, according to hotel insiders
Holy Week is just around the corner, summer trips are on the horizon, and many families are planning their long weekend getaways. Aside from airfare and food, hotels make up the bulk of a trip’s cost.
Looking for ways to save on accommodations? PhilSTAR L!fe spoke to hotel insiders to find out how to score the best hotel deals.
Plan ahead and book early for the best deals
Melissa Carlos, Senior Group Director of Sales and Marketing at Seda, a hotel chain with 11 branches around the Philippines including in Metro Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, and Palawan, advises travelers to allot enough lead time for stays.
“Given that people are still enjoying "revenge travel," it would be ideal for families to book two weeks before their check-in date to ensure room availability. But if the date of stay falls on a holiday or weekend, we recommend a longer lead time,” Carlos told L!fe.
Booking early assures travelers of getting not just a room, but their preferred room type.
“While hotels might come up with last-minute deals to fill up the property, this is not always the case. Booking late might also cost more because usually, the only rooms left will be suites or the more expensive room categories,” she said.
Pat Favoreal, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Enable Hospitality, the hotel management and consulting firm behind Azalea Hotels and Residences in Baguio and Boracay, suggests booking as early as four to six months before a trip due to high demand. One of the properties is already performing 18% better than its highest performance during the pre-COVID period.
Planning ahead gives travelers more flexibility and time for working parents and students to file leaves and plan around school schedules.
“You can zero in on airline promotions and match your holiday stay dates with airline promo fares. You can also build up the excitement about the holiday with your travel mates and plan the best itineraries, side trips, excursions, activities, dining options, and shopping. The more you know about the destination, the more optimized the holiday will be,” said Favoreal.
Alex Aquino, Head of Marketing and Communications at Swissôtel Hotels and Resorts in Pampanga, agrees that planning ahead is key because apart from staying in the hotel, families can also plan to visit other places of interest nearby.
Pick a strategic hotel location
Staycations are all about relaxing and enjoying nearby attractions. But one of the problems during Holy Week is that malls, museums, and restaurants in the metro are usually closed.
For those who don’t want to go far, Seda has hotels in BGC, Makati, and Quezon City, aside from Nuvali in Sta. Rosa Laguna, less than an hour away, which offer a complete range of modern conveniences and leisure options.
“Those who prefer to stay in-house will also enjoy lazing in the room or the pool or hanging out in the restaurant. All our dining outlets will be open as usual on Holy Week,” said Carlos.
There are several churches near Seda BGC including St. Michael the Archangel Parish and Sanctuario de San Antonio, while BHS Central Square has open, public spaces. While Ayala Malls Market! Market! will be closed on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, they will resume normal hours on Black Saturday. Bonifacio High Street is also hosting an Easter Sunday event on April 9.
For those who want to escape the sizzling summer heat, Baguio is always top of mind, not just for Metro Manila residents, but those coming from Visayas with direct Cebu-Baguio flights. Azalea’s log cabin-inspired hotel offers an ideal vacation place in the coolest city in the North of Luzon.
“It is a stone’s throw away from Teacher’s Camp and just 15 minutes away from Session Road, SM Baguio, Baguio Public Market, Camp John Hay, and other must-visit tourist attractions and restaurants,” said Favoreal.
Clark in Pampanga, just two hours away from Manila, is another rising destination. Swissôtel Clark is only a few kilometers away from family-friendly destinations including a zoo, several museums, restaurants, parks, and kids' attractions. Guests are given a suggested itinerary through a Clark Activity Booklet, with a list of partner attractions including the Clark Safari, GEMIK Sports Club, and Clark Speedway.
“To make the most out of your adventure in Clark, visit the Clark museum, Clark Parade Grounds, and nearby cafes and restaurants,” said Aquino.
Book hotel stays during off-peak days
While it’s usually more expensive to stay in hotels on weekends and holidays, the type of property also plays a factor in rates. Hotels in cities and business districts are expected to be full from Monday to Friday, while leisure resorts are packed on holidays and weekends.
“If staying in city hotels for staycations, holiday takers should target to stay during weekends and weekday holidays where business travel is not at the highest. For resort holidays, you might want to stay away from the peak periods, holidays, and weekends,” said Favoreal.
For those with flexible work or school arrangements, school days and the rainy season are the best time to get good year-round deals.
“There are always available promotions per season year-round. Prices vary depending on the seasonality and the demand. Most often, when it's the rainy season and during school time,” Aquino told L!fe, noting that Swissôtel is almost always fully booked on weekends.
Look out for hotel promos on social media and travel fairs
Hotel websites show a ballpark figure of their room rates and photos of amenities. However, with changes during the pandemic, not all websites are updated. Some hotels advertise seasonal deals, free stays, discounts, or room upgrades only on social media like Facebook and Instagram.
According to Carlos, hotels normally offer special Lenten rates for Holy Week. Travelers can also book hotel stays during travel fairs when rates are generally cheaper.
Book directly with the hotel
According to Favoreal, before 2019, majority of the hotels and resorts in the Philippines used to be dependent on booking intermediaries and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) which provided the best rates, but that is no longer the case.
“Hotels and resorts today have stepped up and can now receive online bookings and payments through their social media pages and websites. What does this mean for the holidaymakers? It means it is now preferential to go straight to the hotels and resorts (that have the technology) and get the same or better rates than the intermediaries.” said Favoreal.
Booking direct also offers additional perks and benefits such as preferred room set-up, room upgrades, or discounts for future stays.
“It makes for easier coordination when there are any modifications or special requests for the stay, compared to when the booking is done through a third party. Hotels also have promos that are not offered through third-party sites,” Carlos pointed out.
Insiders also recommend signing up for guest loyalty programs to get privileges like first dibs at promos, dining discounts, and points that can be redeemed for overnight stays or restaurant vouchers.
Compare rates vs. third-party booking apps
OTAs often have more dynamic rates than hotels and their rates constantly change depending on demand and supply. It is possible to find room rates way below the hotel’s own website for flash promos.
But while it may initially seem cheaper, insiders point out that price matching has become a standard for intermediaries, hotels, and resorts.
“Any special rate you see online (whether it be the rate of the hotel/resort you want to stay in or another one), take a screenshot and contact the hotel/resort directly. If they practice price matching, you will be given that rate or better,” said Favoreal.
Based on personal experience, it’s good practice to compare website hotel rates to those on booking sites like Agoda, Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Trip.com. Favoreal adds, “Be relentless in scouring the internet world for the best rates available, direct to the hotel or through intermediaries and book wherever you can get the best acceptable rates.”
For longer stays, stay in serviced residences with kitchens
Standard hotel rooms are usually designed for just two persons, with an extra charge for additional guests. Larger families or those staying longer can opt for serviced residences.
“If you’re staying a few days, book a serviced residence. It is not only more spacious, but is fully equipped with home conveniences like a kitchenette where you can cook your own meals, and a washer/dryer,” said Carlos.
Seda BGC currently has studio, one-bedroom residences, and suites with Club Lounge access that comes with complimentary breakfast, all-day coffee and tea, afternoon tea, cocktails, and desserts.
Azalea Residences Baguio and Boracay are service apartment hotels with deluxe rooms as well as one, two, and three bedroom suites all fitted with kitchens.
“The usual hotels will allow a maximum of only three to four persons in one room. A family of five will need to book two rooms and end up spending more. This is where Azalea’s competitive advantage kicks in, since five to nine persons can stay in our serviced apartment suites and end up paying less as compared to regular hotels. On top of that, those on holiday get to cook their own food and this means savings,” said Favoreal.
Where to go on hotel staycations this Holy Week 2023
Seda BGC is offering an Easter Respite (Room Package) starting at P7,000 per night for a minimum of two consecutive nights’ stay for a booking period of March 24-April 10, 2023 for stays on April 2-10, 2023. They also have a SEDA BGC Easter Sunday Lunch Buffet on April 9, 2023 for P2,199 net per person, P1,099 net for children aged 6-11 years old, free for kids 0-5 years old.
Azalea Baguio is offering Summer Promo Rates starting at P7,200 per night for 6 persons inclusive of buffet breakfast for their Two-Bedroom Holiday Apartments. Superior Hotel Rooms start at P3,100 per night for 2 persons inclusive of buffet breakfast.
Azalea Boracay has studio and 1 to 3-bedroom units, all with designated living, dining, cooking, and sleeping areas. The Two-Bedroom Holiday Apartment starts at P6,900 per night for 6 persons inclusive of breakfast. Deluxe Hotel Rooms start at P3,300 per night for 2 persons inclusive of breakfast.
Swissôtel Clark has an Easter Sunday Package where guests can book a room and enjoy a picnic on Easter Sunday for two persons and one child, as well as fun-filled activities during the Easter event. The rate starts at P16,999 net.