CEBU CITY -- According to a local police estimate in Cebu, Sinulog 2019 drew around 3.5 million visitors. That's one of the biggest numbers in terms of festival crowd.
Sinulog 2020 is just two months away and it is expected to draw in the same crowd, if not more. This is the busiest time for hotels on the Philippines' resort island. And a new hotel recently opened its doors in the city just in time for the holidays and one of the most anticipated festivals in the country.
The Ascott Limited's first property in the country outside of Metro Manila, Citadines Cebu City is ready to welcome guests visiting the Queen City of the South. Located along Juana Osmena St. in the city center, it is the 9th property of Ascott in the Philippines.
It initially opened only three floors but is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.
“[We will be] fully operational by December because we want to open all our rooms in time for Sinulog. There's high demand, especially in this area. The roads in this area would all closed during the festival and you can see people just walking on the streets. So, very busy,” explained Citadines Cebu City residence manager Nanette Moreno.
When fully open, the hotel will offer a total of 180 serviced apartments. Citadines Apart'Hotel is the Ascott brand for serviced apartments or hotels designed for long-staying guests. Although they also cater to short-staying guests, all of the rooms have fully equipped kitchens.
This is the fourth Citadines in the country.
The property is owned by one of Cebu's major property developers, Cebu Landmasters Inc. (CLI) and the hotel is its first venture into the hospitality industry. The hotel is actually situated within the Base Line Center, a mixed-use complex that houses commercial shops, offices, and residential units.
CLI is known for its residential condominium developments and the company built the hotel with Cebu in mind.
Citadines Cebu City's overall design aesthetic is modern yet sophisticated. Inspired by Cebu's culture, there's a local touch in every corner of the hotel like lamps inspired by the puso or hanging rice. The hotel also used Cebu furniture to highlight Cebu's design culture.
The lobby is furnished with Cebu made pieces like the Rapunzel seats of Kenneth Cobonpue. The wooden art piece behind the front desk is by furniture designer Buddy Lagdameo. Cobonpue's playful design of the rickshaw, called Eclipse, is also displayed in the lobby and has become a favorite photo spot for guests.
That signature design extends to the rooms. Pieces like the moon-like side table wall mount lamp made from capiz adds a native Filipino touch to the design of the room, while a modern black and white woven television remote holder and artistic photographs of Cebu give that distinct Cebuano details.
The rooms are categorized into three: studio (queen and twin), one bedroom (single space and loft type), and two bedrooms (combined units and loft type). The space ranges from 30 square meters to 54 square meters.
All rooms feature comfortable beds with a pillow menu for discerning guests. Comfortable plush couches give the rooms a homey feel.
The rooms are still available at the introductory rates that starts at P4,000 nett, which will last until the year ends.
In terms of facilities, the hotel has a pool on the 9th floor with a view of the city, a gym, a 250-capacity ballroom, a business corner, and a common laundry area.
Although the hotel's main target market is the corporate sector like expats, they are still banking on the leisure market. According to Moreno, the leisure sector is mostly composed of foreign and local visitors because the staycation market in Cebu City is practically non-existent.
The situation is opposite to Manila because one of the biggest markets of serviced residences in Metro Manila are weekend staycationers.
“Cebuanos would rather go to the beach for the weekend. They would go somewhere in the south like Oslob. There's not a lot of staycationers here,” she explained.
“For leisure market, there's more in Mactan because of the beach. In the city, there are the tour groups that stay in the city when they plan to go island hopping, from Cebu to Bohol. The city is nearer to the port. After that they they usually will transfer to Mactan for the remainder of their stay,” she added.
As part of Ascott's expansion, CLI is also set to build and open another property in the city called lyf. It is a new brand for the hospitality group that is targeted at the younger generation. Designed with the co-living concept in mind, the hotel has multiple common spaces for interaction. It will also be located within the Base Line Center complex.
CEBU'S BEST FOOD PROVIDER
Citadines Cebu City's food and beverage provider is from a third party group, the Abaca Baking Company (ABC). The brand is known all over Cebu and is famous for its breads.
The chef-led company was founded by Jason Hyatt and the group has opened several original restaurant concepts in the city and Mactan like Maya, a taqueria; and Phat Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant.
The Abaca Baking Company is located at the ground floor, just beside the entrance of the hotel. It's a modern space with marble tables and wooden chairs. The restaurant is adorned with artworks by local artists, which are on sale. According to Moreno, the hotel owners are advocates of the arts.
The Cebu details are also incorporated into the design of the restaurant like the geometric pendant lights inspired by the puso or hanging rice.
The restaurant specializes in all-day breakfast food. According to chef de cuisine Marcel Ramos, the restaurant's signature dishes are sandwiches and salads. And as the food and beverage concessionaire of the hotel, they also cater banquet food.
“All our sandwiches and breads are housemade and our salads are fresh. Our only difference [with other ABC branches] is we're offering events as well. In our events, we specialize in Asian cuisine, that's why we have our Asian chef and also some Western cuisine,” Ramos said.
As of now, the restaurant offers a la carte breakfast for guests and a few buffet items like breads and salads. Once the hotel becomes fully operational, they will offer the full breakfast buffet menu.
Some of the a la carte breakfast items include the Filipino Breakfast Bowl (choice of beef tapa, chorizo, or bangus on top of garlic rice and two eggs), American Breakfast (two eggs any stile with choice of sausage or egg with herb potato hash), and Jasmine Rice Congee (rice congee with fresh egg yolk, crispy shallots, crispy garlic, crushed peanuts, spring onions, and cilantro).