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A family commitment

Family is obviously very important, even central, to Henry Chusuey, chair of the Henann Group of Resorts. Why, even the name “Henann” is derived from a mash-up of his and his wife Ann’s names.

Henry and Ann, who is described as a look-alike of actress Alice Dixson, have also founded a mini-dynasty of good-looking children who have joined, or are about to join, Chusuey’s resort “empire.”

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Older son Alfonso is his father’s right-hand man while Karl Hendrik is vice president for marketing. The youngest, Cristina, is in college in Iloilo and her father hopes that in some way she, too will be involved in the family business.

A native of Iloilo, whose family had interests in theaters and retail, Chusuey began to visit nearby Boracay Island for short vacations long before it gained worldwide fame. “But there was no hotel there that was up to my standards,” he told a group of media women over dinner recently. Seeing a challenge and an opportunity, Chusuey put up in 1998 the Boracay Regency Beach Resort, a pocket hotel with just 43 rooms.

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He was just in time to take advantage of the tourism boom that hit Boracay, eventually transforming the Boracay Regency (“I just like the word ‘regency,’” he explained when asked about the background of the name) into a Triple-A rated resort with 302 rooms, enjoying the widest frontage of the resorts facing the island’s world-famous white beach.

Also notable is the poolside access enjoyed by guests on the ground floor of the Regency’s new wing, allowing occupants to walk directly from their patios and jump into the cool pool waters. One other thing that makes the Boracay Regency special is its in-house Kai Regency Spa, a cool, soothing haven for those tired of the sea and sand.

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From such beginnings of happenstance and daring, the Henann Group has expanded to include two more resorts (Henann Garden and Henann Lagoon), plus four more upcoming beach-front properties in Boracay alone. These would bring under Henann Group’s management an astonishing 1,400 rooms on the island.

At the same time, the Henann Group is set to open the Henann Resort Alona Beach, which will be the biggest in Bohol. Alona Beach on the island of Panglao got its name because it was the setting for a movie starring semi-retired sultry actress Alona Alegre. And for the resort’s opening, Chusuey said wistfully, he wishes that he could invite Alegre to witness this major development on a beach named after her.

Apparently, Chusuey is undaunted by the prospects of bringing tourists to an island that was just recently the site of a major earthquake. “But the destruction is limited to only certain portions of Bohol,” he pointed out. “Panglao Island itself did not sustain major damage.” Indeed, just months after the temblor, Bohol’s tourist attractions, such as the Loboc River Cruise, were back in business. And although a few of the Chocolate Hills were damaged, as was the view deck, Chusuey is confident that these will be rehabilitated soon.

Within Chusuey’s sights is another Henann resort in Palawan, although at this point he is still scouting for a site. But given the Group’s happy history with developing and opening new properties, it isn’t too farfetched to suppose that a “Henann Palawan” property will be coming soon.

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Indeed, it is difficult to be gloomy or skeptical in the face of Chusuey’s sunny disposition and optimistic view of the future.

An inveterate traveler—although travel for him, he said, is also work because he takes the opportunity to study the destinations, accommodations and transportation options he takes—Chusuey declared his steadfast faith in the tourism potentials of the Philippines.

“I still believe we have the best beaches in the world,” he said, expressing a strong commitment to forging “a strong partnership” to promote travel and tourism with the national and local government, as well as the community.

One of his major beefs for now is the state of the airport in Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. “The runway is such that only one plane at a time can use it for landing or takeoff,” he observed. Sure, other tourists can fly to Cebu then take the ferry to Bohol, but this is an added imposition on tourists, he said, adding that a better equipped airport would bring so many more tourists to Bohol who could in the long run help in rehabilitating the island.

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His concerns about the Tagbilaran airport simply reflect the management philosophy of the Chusueys. “We establish resorts with our clients first in our minds,” he said, striving to “make it worth their stay whether they are with us for the short or long term. Our goal is to make them happy from the moment they check in until they leave.”

Chusuey said proudly that the Henann properties are “luxury resorts that are price-wise similar to four-star hotels.”

A point of pride with him, too, is that, while scouting for future locales, he makes sure they build “on the best locations in the destination.” The Boracay Regency (soon to transition to the Henann Regency) is a case in point, located in almost the exact midpoint of the wide, white beach. The Henann Alona Beach enjoys the widest and longest beach front on Panglao.

Given the many problems that folks in the hospitality industry confront daily, it’s a wonder how Chusuey and his good-looking family remain totally involved in and committed to their many properties. But I suppose optimism is one trait necessary for those making a living by welcoming strangers and ensuring that they enjoy themselves for as long as they are under their roof.

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TAGS: Boracay, Boracay Regency, Family, Henann Garden, Henann Group of Resorts, Henann Lagoon, Henann Resort Alona Beach, Henry Chusuey
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