Manila, July 2, 2003 By Angelica A. Angel (STAR) In an industry struggling with middling occupancy, newcomer Kabayan Hotels boast of an average 90% rate.

"We did a thorough study of the market and we found out that there are market niches which have long been neglected. These are province-based overseas Filipino workers, tourists, and businessmen who need to be in Metro Manila for more than a day but do not want to impose on relatives," said Dante Cruz, general manager of Kabayan Hotels, which is owned and operated by The Legend Hotels International.

The OFW market alone is huge at an estimated seven million generating between $7 billion to $8 billion in remittances annually.

"When we put up our first hotel more than a year ago, we set our eyes on the OFW on home leave," said Cruz. Many of these OFWs, especially those whose families are in northern and southern Luzon, prefer to rest for a day or two in Manila upon arrival before taking the last leg of their journey home.

OFW market

Positioning itself as the hotel with the heart and hospitality that Filipinos are used to (Pusong Pinoy Asikasong Pinoy), the three-star 109-room Kabayan Hotel along Taft Ave. in Manila offers free airport service for the OFW who books ahead of his arrival. A shuttle called the "Pinoy van" gamely takes on board his/her spouse, children, and close relatives who would like to greet the OFW at the airport.

"With more than 2,500 Filipinos from all over the country leaving every day, Christmas is not the only season of the year when OFWs come home. For domestic helpers, they come home during the school vacations of their wards. For others, their home leaves depend on the types of skill that they were hired for. And then, you have those whose contracts have expired," said Cruz.

An equally important market are potential OFWs who apply and are interviewed by recruitment agencies and who must process their papers with government offices.

"The hotelís location, which is within walking distance to the metropolisís two interlinking mass railway systems, is a plus factor because our clients do not own cars," said Cruz.

To meet the different needs of its OFW market, the hotel offers de luxe rooms as well as dormitory-type rooms which can accommodate six guests, each bed with its own bed lamp and security deposit box. A bed in a dormitory-type room goes for P299 a day plus free breakfast. Expansion

To cater to provincial-based travelers in need of a place to stay in Manila, Kabayan Hotels has located its second outlet near major bus terminals in Cubao.

"Aside from a decent place to stay in the city, we offer our guests peace of mind. The premises are well lit. There are security cameras in strategic locations. We have a state-of-the-art electronic fire alarm and protection system," said Cruz.

Within the next five years, the company will develop and operate other hotel in areas of Metro Manila near mass transport systems.

"It makes sense as long as Metro Manila is the center of the countryís economic, political and educational activities," said Cruz.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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