Having lived on the island of Bohol in the Central Visayas region of the Philippine archipelago all her life, Hope Uy is proud to call herself a Boholana.
Little wonder then that she has the region’s best interests at heart – a commitment she demonstrates on a daily basis in her work as Managing Director of Panglao Shores, a new tourism destination in Bohol developed under the umbrella of the Alturas Group of Companies.
The ‘resort town’ promises to offer visitors an alluring combination of white, sandy beaches, turquoise seas and a rich cultural heritage, creating an authentic connection with both place and people.
More than just another building project, Panglao Shores centers around the concepts of local culture, community and sustainability. Over the course of 10 years, the low-density 50-hectare mixed-use project within Panglao Shores will eventually include a total of six hotels and resorts, 1,000 residential units and a 37,000-square-meter retail and commercial area.
The unveiling of the project in January was a proud moment for Uy, who has been working on the plans for the past five years.
A collaborative effort between Alturas Group of Companies and a range of international and local designers, she is delighted with the finished result, which reflects the company’s commitment to its local roots and will ensure the island continues to thrive into the future.
“I grew up on that beach,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “That’s why we wanted it to have a sustainable approach.”
The town utilizes the concepts already instilled at South Farm, Alturas Group of Companies’ nine-hectare nature-based tourist attraction, which also produces fruit, vegetables, herbs and more for South Palms Resort and North Zen Villas.
The farm channels sustainability and the principles of a circular economy, and, in addition to recycling waste, it also produces local handicrafts and produce. It has helped to keep local farming traditions alive and well.
“I believe every development should take care of the community, take care of the people,” Uy says. “If you start from there, all the rest will be easier to follow.”
During the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the resort forced to close its doors, the farm project proved the perfect way to repurpose staff. “We created a farming community while recovering from the pandemic,” she says proudly.
For her, South Farm is as a “love project”. “It’s born of the love of the team members – from the front office team to the carpenters, from the housekeepers to the farmers,” she explains.
“So while that time was actually very challenging, our people came back to us stronger and more fulfilled than ever.”
It is this wholesome ethos that Uy hopes to extend to Panglao Shores, starting with its first hotel – a 188-room property spread across six hectares.
South Palms Resort Panglao Bohol – MGallery is expected to open its doors in 2024 as the first resort-style property for Accor’s MGallery brand in the Philippines.
The commercial zone, Town Square Retail Mall & Night Market, will be next, she confirms.
“We’re also keenly looking at partnering two more hotel plots in the next five years. That will make it three hotels and our intention is that these will also be international brands.”
Further down the track, Panglao Shores’ residential area will be filled with apartments, designed to encourage productivity among its residents as they benefit from the stunning location. The combination offers an ideal solution for professionals in a post-pandemic world where remote working arrangements beyond the big cities have become commonplace.
We’re also keenly looking at partnering two more hotel plots in the next five years.
With capacity for a total of 5,000 people, the area will provide residents with access to the beach and the beach club, as well as a range of other facilities.
While the plan is gradually becoming a reality, Alturas Group of Companies is firmly committed to ensuring the focus remains on sustainability – something Uy identifies as its biggest challenge. As a result, it is placing a lot of effort on educating everyone involved on “how to be more respectful of the land”.
“I’d say this is still a new thing for millennials,” she concedes, swiftly adding that she herself is a millennial. “So it’s about giving them a constant reminder that when we develop this, we have to abide by being a good neighbor to our neighbors in this town.”
Beyond that, the company is using materials sourced locally within Bohol.
“We’re using wood that came from recycled houses for our clads, for our room design,” she reveals. “We’re using limestone located in Bohol to make it architecturally pleasing instead of importing certain items.”
The company has also decided against building any higher than three stories to ensure it retains a homely feel. In terms of landscaping, the plants are all locally sourced in a bid to reduce the project’s carbon footprint.
To truly secure Panglao Shores’ green credentials, Alturas Group of Companies worked closely with London-based consultancy XCO2, which Uy describes as “experts in the industry for sustainability”.
“It’s a 50-hectare property, so how do you ensure a low impact to the environment?” she says. “They were able to give us some great directions in order for us to be sustainable for this master plan.”
Singapore-based design studio SCSY also played an important role, as did Bill Barnett of C9 Hotelworks – the project’s principal consultant. “He is best in the industry in terms of making a development stay true to its product,” Uy confirms.
Accor Gets on Board
When it opens its doors, South Palms Resort Panglao Bohol – MGallery will become Accor’s second MGallery property in the destination, joining the metropolitan Admiral Hotel Manila – MGallery.
In a statement, the CEO of Sofitel, Sofitel Legend, MGallery and Emblems, Maud Bailly, described the Panglao Shores concept as “inspiring”, saying it perfectly aligns with the spirit of the MGallery collection.
“South Palms Resort Panglao Bohol – MGallery is an exceptional resort that adds another outstanding destination to our expanding presence in South-East Asia, joining our flourishing collection of memorable hotels and resorts full of character and charm,” she said.
The opening of Bohol-Panglao International Airport in 2018 means the island is well-positioned to benefit from tourism. “We are delighted to be at the forefront of this trend,” Bailly continued.
“We look forward to working with our partners at the Alturas Group of Companies to bring this exciting, locally inspired project to life.”
The French hotel giant already has 10 hotels, resorts and branded residences in operation across the Philippines with a committed pipeline of a further 16 hotels due to open within the next five years.
A family affair
A mainstay of the economy in Bohol and also Cebu, Alturas Group of Companies recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Since its founding, its business interests have become wide-ranging, incorporating agriculture, retail and hospitality.
But while the company has significantly expanded over the years, much about it has also stayed the same. “Alturas Group is still a family of four siblings – it’s still a family business,” Uy stresses.
Ensuring these family values extend to the wider community is part of its DNA, and this is where she sees it differ from the competition.
“It’s a very locally inspired business model. We employ Boholanos always. I think we preserve a culture and values within our company that other companies lack. They tend to forget about the culture, the value of still being a family and based in the province,” she points out.
“I believe that has given us an impact in terms of the success of Alturas Group of Companies right now. It has been very helpful and we’ve multiplied that way, instilling these values to our team members.”
Every year, Alturas Group of Companies holds a ‘Family Get Together’ event, which this year was attended by more than 12,000 employees and more than US$55,000 worth of raffle prizes were given away.
The event is in tune with the island’s vibrant fiesta culture, with Bohol’s lavish festivals and elaborate costumes an important part of Boholano identity. Highlighting this is very important to the Alturas Group of Companies team, Uy says.
Alturas Group of Companies also believes in treating its suppliers as part of the family, with the company recognizing the importance of the companies it works with.
“We cannot do anything without them, so we’ve always established good relationships with them,” she adds.
I think we preserve a culture and values within our company that other companies lack.
“In fact, over years and years, we’re still seeing the same people. The trust, the confidence that we have established over the years is part of the success of where we are right now.”
The company’s past, present and future are tied up in the island of Bohol, and safeguarding its people and its heritage is both a duty and a privilege for Alturas Group of Companies, according to Uy.
“This is the land where we grew up. We have to respect the land, respect the people who contribute to the community,” she says.