A new kid on the block


PHILIPPINES (eTN) – The Philippines continued to generate positive economic forecasts from foreign institutions following a surprise third-quarter growth in 2012. Citigroup raised its growth forecast for the country’s GDP to 6.3 percent from 5 percent. HSBC also revised its forecast upwards.

The news, apart from the usual natural disasters that plague the Philippines, seemed to be having a more positive spin. On a recent walk I had around the Philippine capital there was a “buzz” in the air and more determination in the steps of the people going to work.

From a hospitality perspective, things are moving. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Makati central business district boosted its upscale hotel portfolio with the debut of renowned brands Raffles and Fairmont in the Ayala group’s crown jewel, Ayala Center.

Up until now Manila and more specifically Makati, Manila’s upscale business and shopping mecca, has had to make do with the likes of Shangri-la, Peninsula, and Intercontinental at the luxury end of the market. All good hotels in their own right, but without change and competition, these properties have stagnated on their laurels.

Along comes the Fairmont and Raffles brand, shaking up the pot and adding a dose of streamlined luxury. Makati wakes up one morning to a 32 all-suite Raffles hotel come condo (237 residences) sharing a building with a 280-room Fairmont property. Both names are synonymous with luxury in their own unique ways.

Architecturally stunning, the sleek look of the building was conceived by leading architects Arquitectonia, with interiors done by Bent Severin International.

On the Raffles side, vestiges of the Singapore Raffles are present with the famed Long Bar, duly replicated for that late afternoon Singapore Sling. The writers’ bar, replicating that unique corner in the Singapore Raffles, is a quiet haven for those seeking solace from a bustling Manila.
According to Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman and CEO of Ayala Corp., the company that singularly saw the importance of bringing Raffles and Fairmont to Makati, “I think the launching of the new Fairmont and Raffles, two wonderful brands, is symbolic of the turnaround the country is experiencing” and later went on to say, “we have a fresh new product for the city at a time when the country is also trying to encourage tourism.”

The skipper at the helm of the two properties is the charismatic Tom Meyer, whose previous Philippines experience at Intercontinental Hotel, as well as 28 years in hospitality, brought him into contact with the Ayalas and made him the perfect fit for the task.

Whatever is said, the need for new blood on the Makati stage is definitely there, and Fairmont-Raffles are fitting that role with perfection.