Christine Ann Ibarreta, president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) Philippines, wanted 10 categories right away for the Virtus Awards when she first came up with it four years ago. “In fact, I was even looking to [give out awards to] 10 outstanding hoteliers,” says Ibarreta. “But Virtus wasn’t even a year old, so it was difficult to do that.”
Through the years, Virtus has become the most awaited event of the year for the sales and marketing professionals in the hospitality industry—as its singular focus is the sales force’s hard work and achievements. Slowly but surely, the Virtus Awards has positioned itself to become one of the most coveted honors in the hotel and resorts industry.
“[Virtus Awards] is different because before, there was really none that focused on sales and marketing in the hotel industry, and we all know sales is the bread and butter of any property,” says Cielo Ortega-Reboredo, director of sales-events and marketing of Okada Manila, herself a Virtus Awardee in 2015.
Ibarreta says she was inspired to establish Virtus after hearing of HSMA International’s Adrian Awards in the United States. From her big dream of 10 categories, she and other HSMA Philippines officers trimmed down the list to four: Outstanding Sales and Marketing Associate; Outstanding Sales and Marketing Manager; Outstanding Sales and Marketing Leader (the award received by Reboredo for her work then with Midas Hotel and Casino); and Outstanding Marketing Campaign.
“We were thinking of hosting the usual activities, such as trade shows, but we wanted to veer away from that,” says Margarita Munsayac, HSMA Philippines chair. “We said, let’s do something that will recognize their excellence.”
Adds Ibarreta: “Sales and marketing people are the ones looking for sources of revenue. We bring that to the table. We are the ones who go out of the office wearing three-inch heels and come back with only two inches left!”
Such recognition, adds Munsayac, not only elevates the hotel sales and marketing profession, but also motivates management to take care of their staff under this division, which in turn inspires sales and marketing professionals to become more passionate about their job.
“By igniting their passion, we hope to excite the market, deliver rigorous business, make our hearts beat a little faster, and, yes, shake our world,” adds Rose Libongco, former HSMA president and current Virtus chairperson. “That we are able to launch and consistently deliver year on year is a feat we are immensely proud of and hope to accomplish till Virtus becomes a byword and the winners become synonymous with the mark of excellence.”
Since Virtus began in 2015, Ibarreta says the number of nominations they receive have doubled. She also noted that nominees this year have become significantly more competitive.
The awards night on October 8 doubles as a networking event for sales and marketing professionals in the hotel and tourism industry.
HSMA, aside from giving out the award, is in the forefront of providing hotel sales and marketing professionals with tools, insights, and expertise to remain current in the ever-evolving hotels and resorts industry. Today, the organization counts over 120 hotels and resorts in the country as member-partners. Its first president was Melvin Cruz of the Hyatt Hotel, and Rose Hilario-Libongco of Hotel Intercontinental Manila, Aurora Patricio-Paredes of Manila Hilton, Michael Cuisia of The Manila Hotel, and Peter Litgeib of The Manila Mandarin as first set of charter officers.
Hotel luminaries who have held the reins of the HSMA presidency include Maggie Garcia, Leny Fabul, Ofri Canlas, the late Chiqui Recio-Ang, Lyn Tamparong, Gami Holazo, Roberto Laygo, and Marita Marcos. Rose Libongco takes the title of longest-serving president, as she was elected for multiple terms from 1982 till 2010.
Follow them on Facebook @HSMA (Hotel Sales and Marketing Association International).