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Island Cove embraces tech in race for leisure property market share

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Resort operator Island Cove is striving to stay ahead of the game by upgrading facilities and spending for online ads, a company official said. -- ISLAND COVE

By Mark Louis F. Ferrolino,
Special Features Writer

SURGING DEMAND for travel promos and new attractions posted on social media is amping up competition in the local leisure property business.

“With the advent of piso fares, all the travel sales and all these other places like Tagaytay, it’s becoming very competitive,” Gilbert C. Remulla, managing director of Island Cove Hotel and Leisure Park, told BusinessWorld in a Feb. 23 interview.

“Because of the Internet, people are seeing the latest offerings. People are now more sophisticated because they are exposed to the Internet and social media.”

To cope with demand, Mr. Remulla said the leisure property business is now allocating bigger amounts for online advertisements and continuously adding new attractions and upgrading facilities that cater to the changing needs and wants of the market.

At Island Cove, Mr. Remulla said the resort operator is striving to stay ahead of the game by offering something fresh all the time.

Recently, the hotel and leisure park opened a 3,200-square meter animal zone called Island Aviary. It houses different species of birds and offers child-friendly activities such as rabbit and ostrich feeding. Visitors could also hold and carry the 200-pound Burmese python.

In addition to its inventory of function areas, the Island Cove developed a 170-seater function room, the Bayside Deck. It is an air-conditioned events place with views overlooking the Manila Bay.

Last year, the now 20-year-old hotel and leisure park renovated its accommodation facilities, while still maintaining its Mediterranean feel. Rooms were installed with USB charging ports, Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, flat screen televisions and modern bathrooms.

As an additional attraction, Island Cove is introducing new activities including go-karting and mermaid swimming lessons.

“We have to keep on investing and reinvesting in facilities and in people. You really have to keep up with the times or else people will not go to you anymore,” Mr. Remulla said.

He shared that leisure is such a diverse business: what is leisure to one is not leisure to the other. Thus, businesses have to find their niche or figure out the market they want to tap. Island Cove decided to be a family-friendly destination, specifically catering to families with young kids, 10 years ago.

“The advantage of Island Cove is there’s always something for everybody here — you can swim, enjoy nature or take a short break — almost everything is here,” Mr. Remulla said, adding that it is also a perfect venue for weddings, meetings and conferences. “We try to satisfy the different aspects of the market.”

The 36-hectare hotel and leisure park has two main ballrooms, air-conditioned function, meeting rooms, and non-air-conditioned pavilions and function areas.

It also houses various outdoor facilities including swimming pools, a paintball arena, a basketball court, a tennis court, a 1.4-kilometer jogging path, playgrounds, and a giant chess set.

Businesses like hotels, leisure resorts and parks are difficult to manage, Mr. Remulla said. “We are brick and mortar. We build something to make our money back (sic) after building facilities,” he explained. It’s not easy to keep up with the competitors’ latest offerings or with the trending attractions that the market sees in the social media. Adding new facilities calls for new investments,” he pointed out.

Despite the challenges, Mr. Remulla said Island Cove is growing. “It’s growing and we just have to find better ways of growing our business. Whether it’s through efficiency or tapping new markets,” he said.

“After 20 years, there’s definitely something new that we are planning,” Mr. Remulla said.