What is an experience worth?

I may not mention it outright or link to the company’s official website, but I think most people here know that I work for a high-end resort in El Nido, Palawan. My official job title is “Environmental Officer” but because of my fondness for blogging and social media, I tend to keep track and update the company’s official social media accounts even though it isn’t technically part of my job. I post photos, tweet, edit videos, and answer questions from potential guests. Now, I don’t mind answering basic questions like “How do I get there?” (even though you totally could have Googled the question yourself and gotten an answer faster than waiting for me to reply) or “What activities do you offer?”. What annoys me to no end are people commenting “You’re too expensive! Your rates are un-Filipino!”, “Do you have promos for Christmas?”, “It’s cheaper to go to Hong Kong than to Palawan!”, or some variant thereof. As a fellow traveler on a limited budget, I absolutely understand why you want to get the lowest possible rate at the best time to visit and experience the best holiday you’ve had to date. But as someone who works in the tourism industry, have you ever considered what goes into your experience?

  • Exclusivity. Each property only has 50 rooms, so the maximum capacity is 100-120 people. This means that if you stay with us, you’ll have approximately 1.5 staff (or more!) taking care of your needs and wants throughout your stay. This also means that we’re quieter compared to other places. A guest from New York once said that he paid top dollar for silence.
What is this room worth?
  • The luxury of being taken cared of. We have fewer guests and more staff compared to other hotels, which helps us give you a level of service that will make you cry in happiness. Seriously. Guests have cried during the goodbye song. Some of them also didn’t want to leave. We had a couple over Christmas who willingly paid to stay in the Manager’s Quarters because they wanted to extend their stay but all the guest rooms were taken. We greet you by name (unless you don’t want us to, of course) and strive to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Please note that there’s nothing we can do about the weather, the jellyfish, or the birds that sing really loudly in the early morning.
  • Increased costs. We operate island resorts in northern Palawan. We prioritize local suppliers but there are still some things that we need to bring over from Manila. That means moving them via cargo ship or plane, which cost money. We also operate our own diesel generators, desalination plants, sewage treatment plants, and a materials recovery facility. These also cost money.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I am NOT saying that it’s not possible to have an equally good time while on a limited budget. Our barkada trip to Antique-Guimaras-Iloilo only set us back around P5,000 each and we had a blast, but it was a very different experience compared to a luxury resort. We relied on the hospitality of local friends and their relatives (thank you Mike and Kuya Nonoy!), bought groceries and cooked our own food, slept on mattresses in one big room, and arranged everything ourselves. Though equally fun, it was worlds away from sleeping with down pillows, having someone else arrange our activities for the day, and eating food prepared by someone who used to be the personal chef to one of the richest families in the Philippines.

The heart of every travel decision should be getting the most bang for your buck, whether that’s AUD 31.50 per night in a hostel (did this in Australia) or the presidential suite of a five-star hotel (got to take a peek inside – not stay! – in the Hilton Hotel in Sanya, China). The bottom line is that the property I work for is worth it. Yes, staying with us might mean saving up for several months but we make it worth your while.