Marco Polo at 13 stays on top as it continues to evolve

By Marc Eric Cosep |April 23,2019 - 03:00 PM

Hotels have evolved from portals where travelers are introduced to their lodging accommodations to places where people gather to immerse themselves in the local culture and merriment.

This evolution has been gradual, but the proliferation of a hotel lifestyle has shifted from just your accommodation to an invitation, where socialization spurs and sparks imaginations over the past years. Many facets of the hotel industry have shifted to adapt to new technology and changing consumer behavior which has in turn change how hoteliers conduct business.

Today’s consumer, thanks to the internet and technology in general, are more sophisticated and educated than they were before.

This sophistication has touched many areas in the industry, forcing hotel brands to evolve to stay relevant.

“We need to evolve and keep on evolving so that we stay relevant to the people of Cebu because they are part of our lives even as we celebrate our 13th anniversary,” said Brian Connelly, Marco Polo Cebu general manager.

Staying relevant

As the hotel celebrates its anniversary this April 27, Connelly describes this moment as an opportunity to explore, a coming of age, an evolution where hotels no longer have to stick to the tradition and break free from the norms.

Formerly known as Cebu Plaza Hotel before it was closed in March 2003, Marco Polo continues to innovate its services and events to stay relevant and on top.

“The thing is, even if this building is a landmark and has been part of Cebu’s history, we also want to show our market that we will continue to do things that are relevant to them,” said Manna Alcaraz, the hotel’s communications manager.

Last week, Marco Polo hosted a “Game of Thrones” viewing party and a “Miss Universe” viewing party in previous years.

“We do what we feel is relevant to our guests. We don’t want to be stuck in the old ways, to stay traditional. Traditions are good, but new things are also good,” said Alcaraz.

“This also sets us apart from the others because we value your history with us and invest in your future, likes, and interests,” added Alcaraz.

Going Green 

Apart from sustaining its relevance in the city, Marco Polo continues to reduce its resource consumption and incorporate sustainable practices.

Recently, Marco Polo Cebu earns EarthCheck’s ‘Silver Status’ certification joining other industry leaders that are taking meaningful steps towards sustainable tourism.

“We started our EarthCheck partnership three years ago, and it’s very difficult to get a certification,” said Alcaraz.

Marco Polo Cebu is one of the few hotels in Cebu that is certified from EarthCheck, an international tourism advisory group. Its headquarters is in Brisbane, Queensland and was developed by the Sustainable Tourism CRC, the largest research center specializing in sustainable tourism and research.

“Two years ago we got a Bronze status and had a few checks from their very comprehensive checklist,” said Alcaraz.

Its support to sustainable tourism also led them to eliminate the usage of single-use plastic straws and replaced them with bamboo fiber straws from a local supplier, and soon – bamboo straws acquired from Bantayan Island.

“Because, instead of plastics, we are now going to have sustainable silverware including our cups,” said Connelly, making the hotel not just at the forefront in sustainability but also in the protection of the environment.

“We also get very involved with the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and support the activities they have,” he said.

Other notable innovations made are their green meetings.

A green meeting has been defined as a meeting that incorporates environmental considerations throughout all stages of the meeting in order to minimize the negative impact on the environment.

This also incorporates social aspects such as charitable donations and projects that give back to the community.

(From left to right) Lara Constantino-Scarrow, Director of Sales and Marketing; Brian Connelly, Marco Polo Cebu General Manager; Manna Alcaraz, Communications Manager.

Promoting Philippine and Leisure Tourism 

A strong economy, rising global consumer purchasing power, and digital innovation have fueled record growth in the travel and hotel industry.

Having been through most of the major key cities in Asia, Connelly sees potential growth in leisure tourism.

“If the Philippine’s tourism can draw 7-8 million visitors annually, and Thailand 28 million, what potential do we need to focus and grow?” he asked.

To draw more visitors in the country, he says that more buildings and infrastructure that support the local tourism industry are needed in the country.

“We have incredible beaches, best diving sites and a safari that is as good as San Diego. It is just a matter of building the right infrastructure that can support (them),” said Connelly.

The expansion of international air travel has also given the hotel and tourism industry a boost.

The cost of flight tickets has been on the decrease, and since the age of the so-called “cheap airlines” travel all over the world has become more affordable.

This has also given opportunities for hotels to promote tourism at an international platform, tapping platforms like the MICE Market (Meetings, events, and Incentive Travel Market) to help boost local tourism.

“Marco Polo also supported the MICE Market because we wanted people from North America to come to Cebu,” said Connelly, stating that millennials wanted something new beside going to Hawaii or Puerto Rico.

“The potential for Philippine tourism is incredible in terms of what we can do as leisure tourism, whether its MICE or just pure leisure, we are excited about the future,” said Connelly.

Expansions and Aspirations

As a brand, Marco Polo Hotels have been continuously looking for potential expansion in the Philippines and in Asia in General.

Recently, Marco Polo, starts its trilogy, with the opening of their new hotel in Ortigas in Metro Manila, adding to the few hotel chains that has a spot in the three major regions in the country -Marco Polo Cebu, Marco Polo Davao and Marco Polo Ortigas.

In China, Marco Polo is growing considerably, introducing a new brand called Niccolo in China and in Hong Kong which is noted for having a five or six star rating.

“As a brand, we will keep it in Asia, so that the service will be consistent,” said Lara Constantino-Scarrow, the hotel director of sales and marketing.

As more and more people are going uphill, the management sees this as an opportunity and a challenge to continue being relevant.

“Now as we reach 13 years, we can’t help but feel nostalgic and challenged, challenged that we should still continue to innovate and listen to our customers,” said Scarrow.

According to Scarrow, listening is part of evolving and to evolve means the brand should embrace and engage change because the Cebuano community is part of their life, the hotel’s bloodline.


Marco Polo Plaza Cebu is officially a teenager! As they celebrate their 13th Anniversary, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu thanks everyone for their patronage through these special offers:

-30% off Best Available Rates for rooms

For Anniversary week, today until April 28:

-30% off Café Marco Dinner Buffet

-30% off ALL drinks at Lobby Lounge, El Viento Restaurant & Pool Bar and Blu Bar & Grill

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