WE’RE RECALLING WHAT WE DID in preparation for the lockdown. We call it the seven unusual steps because, for us, it’s not normal for a small business to take this route and try to predict the ravaging effects of such a disease and create solutions out of it. At least in our local context. This post is more for our purpose and nothing more. It is to prepare for the next ‘one’ in the hopes of helping other businesses learn from our experience. There’s a bonus tip that one should look out for in case you’re going to follow our ‘trail’. So without much further ado, the steps we took are:

NOT THE NEWS YOU WANT but it’s what we had to prepare for: Feb 7, 2020 news of CNN Philippines which reads, ‘PHILIPPINES REPORTS THIRD CONFIRMED CASE OF NOVEL CORONAVIRUS’
  1. We listened to the news, studied the problem – Ever since the news broke out in Week 1 of January 2020 in the Philippines, we intently followed the progress of the virus’ spread: We followed what it is, how it’s spread, where is it now, how dangerous it is.
    Called then NCoV-19 (Novel Coronavirus of 2019), China was grappling on how to contain the spread of the disease. It hasn’t acted decisively and for good reason: It doesn’t know what it is up against. So we followed the story and picked good websites, extracted helpful information that can help protect employees, then guests, then the business. During that time, the only clue much of the world knows was that it causes flu-like symptoms and it’s fatal if not treated fast.
  2. We took the pragmatic approach – We took into consideration realistic angles of how fast the virus spreads, how it is spread, and what initial actions to take to repel the effects towards guests, towards employees, and towards the business as a whole. This is different than just creating conjectures that may just create scenarios that place fear in us rather than preparing for practical action where minimal funds were set aside to start investing in protective masks, goggles, and alcohol to repulse the contagion. Timing is key and hedging ourselves for the worse is better than not preparing at all.
  3. We ‘Seized the day’ – After careful studying the news trickling in, how the disease is to spread, and how this will all play out, we know it will affect the hostel business either slowly or decisively. So while praying for the best to come, we also pushed further with plans as news spews with fear and confusion as it spirals almost out of control through social media and cable televisions. We started drawing up plans, created signs, oriented staff members, and even talked to guests on how they can protect themselves essentially shoring up to keep the hostel’s reputation even going unreservedly shunning guests from specific countries where the virus may have come from or have been. Checked-in guests have to be protected.
  4. We acted to protect guests – Guests’ confidence and security are paramount and there are two types of guests: local ones and foreigners. To both types, we have to prepare ‘exit strategies’ so each one can feel the hospitality and service we stand for. We readied vehicles to guarantee that guests are herded to the airports on the eve (and on the day) of the lockdown. We researched and readied information on how to help guests especially getting their embassy numbers and information where to drop off local guests in case public transportations are halted. The public fear is palpable and so filtering information is important so that important ones are handed and can be made useful for confused guests.
    As soon as we have information, we give it to our guests, and guests are also assisted with flight, airport, and shuttle information and leave the hostel the moment is needed so foreign guests can continue with their journey home or to their next destination.
  5. Moved to protect hostel employees – Employees are as golden as the owners are in crisis moments like this. Your staff provide the extra hands, feet, and mind you need to execute plans you’ve drawn up. Every personnel was given daily briefings, re-orienting their approach to work, and understand the dangers of how this virus spreads. They were given pointers and tips before they engage guests to protect them from the ‘unseen enemy’ because every employee matters.
  6. Executed our plans – Plan execution is prime. No success is ever achieved when no action is taken. Our objective was to protect our guests and nothing at this point can go wrong. Signs are up, posted in strategic places, employees are oriented so they can become your enforcer of new health policies, current guests are briefed so they won’t feel much anxiety of the unknown, future guests were emailed about the cancellation and their refunds, protective gears were bought are ready and distributed to each staff, and spray bottles of disinfectant sprays are posted in every room and corner of the hostel that gives guests more protection from the virus. We made sure that all those who booked their stay in Crossroads Hostel Manila are protected first – business, comes second.
  7. We evaluated and adjusted our actions – More news about the virus came and went. We re-iterated our plans. Our coordination now includes the national tourism department and we evaluated our plans, compared it with mandated ones, and adjusted what we know to make sure it stays current. For example, we bought white vinegar and Pinesol thinking it can kill the virus but later on found out that Lysol sprays, alcohol, soaps, and bleaches are the only ones that can kill the virus. In the absence of Lysol and alcohol, we used dish-washing liquid and water as an alternative spray to protect ourselves from this airborne disease.
  8. BONUS! We got accredited. I didn’t know then but now I do. Accreditation is very important. We applied for the tourism board’s accreditation to give Crossroads Hostel a leg to stand on. While we get raving reviews year in and year out from guests, the accreditation given by the said government department proved positive in times like this. As soon as the government locked down the region, the tourism department provided us the ‘shield’ to keep our business open and accommodate workers from different places and backgrounds. This paved the way for us to get business right away from a Business Processing Outsource company just a kilometer from us.

The Tourism Department was commendable for being proactive that by the fourth day after the lockdown was announced by the national government, they already have orders to provide accommodation to front line staff and health workers. The hostel’s occupancy was reduced to 50%, however, this was corrected by our hostel and is now running at 2 persons (maximum) per room no matter how big space the room provided as long as the occupants are not of the same family.
We purchased foot bath for guests’ footwear so it can be disinfected, we bought UV lamps to decontaminate rooms, we bought more alcohol and disinfectants, we made more signboards for new guests to follow and we implemented updated protocols for all staff to follow.

So far, we’re doing good. With such policies, we were able to attract a local Business Processing Outsource (BPO) company to trust us with their skeletal workforce. Through that, we were able to practice and refine our processes and now we’re accepting new guests through our own advertising and promotions.

As the country improves its pandemic status to General Community Quarantine or GCQ since Monday, 1st of June, we’re excited for the new prospects of providing the very best of our programs giving guests safer, cleaner, and more secure budget accommodation here in this hostel.

screenshot_20180921-003510_hw conference6370137440316510126..jpgHostel owners from different regions of Asia Pacific converge at Hanoi, Vietnam this week to network and strengthen this sector of the tourism industry that developing countries have yet to fully recognize. As the host of this event, the 3-day conference will showcase Hostelworld™’s capability to support the needs and requirements of this growing segment. It will also give hostel owners a chance to meet other operators and help each other share stories and experiences on how to grow this business and achieve much faster returns and results for the development of the industry.
This will be a chance for Crossroads Hostel Manila to meet with different owners of hostels not just from different nations in Asia but also counterpart hostels within Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
The hostel industry in the Philippines is very young and with a growing number of budget travelers locally and across the globe, the time is more than ripe to develop this sector and offer fresh ideas for guests with choices of accommodations from different places in the country.
This is the first time Crossroads Hostel Manila will participate in a big event like this outside the country and our goal and intention is to make more travelers know that Crossroads Hostel Manila is here ready to serve and help travelers with their accommodation. The goal is to make the hostel much bigger and much better in terms of more services to offer and we’re inching ever so close to this goal and committed to making sure this happens as it helps put The Philippines on the map for backpacker travelers, tours, needs, whatever background they have.
For more information about this property, log on to facebook.com/crossroadshostelmanila and send us a message and we’ll reply fast.

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 We’re near the Ortigas CBD where the MRT Shaw Station is. Call +639373780400 for more details. (Photo: cityadpics-flickr.com)


HELP IS HERE! As our way to help those who need it: if you’re working in the area of Ortigas tomorrow, Monday, 13th August and in need of a warm-dry place to stay because your home is affected by the current weather system, we’re extending a special offer to you to help you cope with the current conditions we’re facing.
Any one who checks in today, Sunday, 12 August until Wednesday, 15th of August and books directly with us — for as long as we have a place to offer — we’re giving PhP300 discount on our already low daily rates. The residual rates will help us maintain the place and it will help you cope with daily expenses you need.
Discounts are ONLY APPLICABLE thru direct and walk-in bookings and on regular rates.
We will not apply the discounts on bookings made thru agoda.com, booking.com, expedia.com, hostelworld.com, traveloka.com, and other online travel agency sites offering our services.
Senior discounts and Persons with Disability discounts still apply over discounted rates.
All guests availing the discounts and checking in must have valid government-issued IDs and must pay cash with security deposits upon checking in.
We close our doors at 8pm for security reasons so all guests getting this deal must check in before this time. Check out times are still 12NN daily.

STARTING TODAY, there will be a 10% transaction fee for credit card users who will pay their stay at the hostel. We are forced to pass the charge in light of the increased Paypal fees being imposed by the said company among other factors.
There are two types of fees that Paypal is imposing in the Philippines: (a) FIXED FEE for every transactions, PhP15 and (b) OTHER FEES which may mean CROSS BORDER TRANSACTION FEES and COMMERCIAL TRANSACTION FEES.
These fees put together can be a strain to modest operations of hostels like this in our country especially in the capital of Metro Manila compared to other developing countries in Asia.
The other one are the rising cost of operations from the recently passed taxes that gave way to rising cost of fuel, water, taxes, and even cost of labor. We’re still trying to keep the pricing at more affordable levels and paying your stay with us using Online Travel Agencies like expedia.com, traveloka.com, and hostelworld.com can give you advantages when it comes to applying the discounts they offer.
Thank you for your continued patronage and may affordable places like this thrive even further in the face of rising cost of every thing in our world today.

SUMMER heat has gone from hot to hotter every year and this season is no exception. With temperatures (heat index) rising up to 42ºC to 45ºC in the country, you would like to be more comfortable than ever before.
In our studies, the most appropriate times to use the A/C and give our guests the comfort are between 6PM and 6AM when you come back from work and through the rest of the evening when you need to sleep.
Some guests were not happy.
We’ve received negative reports that we’re not considerate in turning off the air-conditioning units but we’re also mindful that we only turn them off during times when they’re needed to be turned off so that we maintain the operations of the said facilities.
The country expects the heat index to reach its peak heat this month and because we want more guests to feel comfortable at night when every one are fast asleep, we decided to control the use of these amenities to guarantee all our guests enjoy the rest they deserve throughout the night:

  • A/Cs are used from 6PM to 6AM and then again at 12NN to 3PM

Any other times, the air-conditioning units will be off and resting.
To help our guests cool during these times we will have the electric fans available while we serve overflowing Raspberry Iced Tea drinks and/or Ice Water (or even Ice Cream!) until there are guests these summer months and until the PAG-ASA Weather Bureau says “Summer has ended!”
Thank you for bearing this dry season with Crossroads Hostel Manila and if you would like to book yourself a stay or for your loved ones, click the links of online travel agencies (OTAs) offering our property. See you then?
Tara na sa EXPEDIA!
Nakakaloka sa TRAVELOKA!
Hip na hip sa CTRIP!
 

We just leveled up our services and included Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash to serve the needs of our guests.
It may not be a big deal to some of you but for us it is because these are times that we can offer something better to our guests especially when you know the history of our hostel.
We are now at the point of offering more services to our guests so WASH OUT for it!
Pun intended. 🙂

WE’RE SCRATCHING OUR HEADS what to do with the recently approved tax reform in my country. While it gives more small companies like Crossroads Hostel leeway in shielding itself from Value Added Tax (VAT), it will have to contend with the advent of having to pay more in operations cost making it more challenging for us to offset the cost of utilities especially in the coming summer months of March.
Summer, like anywhere else in the world, is increasingly getting warmer and that means higher use of air-conditioners to cool yourself off and more frequent times to open the refrigerators to get your cold drinks or to freeze your drinks.
That’s a lot of money.
Electricity rates in The Philippines are on of the highest in Asia (16th in the World!) and it’s extra challenging for us to get more people to go to The Philippines, let alone have them stay in our hostel because of appointments they have in the nearby Ortigas area.
We’ll take the challenge and hopefully, we’ll come out a winner because whatever investment our guests give us, we put it back to develop our hostel further.
Here’s to creativity in how to get things right.