Well, the storms are over (for now) and we are into a more typical rainy season. The Philippines, in general, and Manila, in particular, suffer from a water shortage, so all the rains should help alleviate this crisis. From a business point of view, we have not seen a typical ‘slow’ season in either Angeles City or Subic. The occupancy rate in all three hotels is in the 70% range during the week and 100% on the weekends.
Some of the bar owners are complaining, but several remark how well they are doing. Why? To me, it is a simple formula. Pay attention to details, know your customers, keep your staff happy and motivated, and do not try to make the bar any more than what it is. The Angeles City market is a true mixed bag, but one thing for sure, is that our customers tend to be older than those in Thailand are. This creates some marketing challenges. First and foremost is the music. Our customers despise rap and techno and the girls love it. Our customers like moderate volume but the tendency is to turn the sound up to earsplitting levels. Many of the bars have DJs and because most of the bars are on the smallish side (the smallest being smaller than Hog’s Breath in Nana); the DJs are integral to a bar’s success. With the advent of MP3, Peer-to-Peer sharing and BPM Jukebox or Virtual DJ, It is almost not necessary to have one. In many bars, the cashier attends to the music as well.
Speaking of making more of the bar than what it is raises a couple of questions. Like Thailand, the bars over here run the gamut of huge gaudy palaces to shit holes. My preference is bars on the smallish side. Something like ‘Cheers’ of where everybody knows your name fame. All of my places and the places I manage focus on the customer and customer service. Of course, having as many pretty girls as possible is also a plus. Perhaps we over do it. Voodoo is the size of Fantasia in Nana Plaza and has something like 55 girls. Granted, we will be open 24/7 beginning 1 Sept, still, a gaggle of friendly and lively gals helps liven up any bar.
Another difference between Thai and Philippine bars are poles. Most stages in the Philippines do not have them. I remember when we were building G-Spot. I asked one of my partners why we had to have poles and he remarked that if we did not have them the girls would not know how to dance. I guess over here, we have mirrors instead. The dancers love to watch themselves. Some bar owners make the mistake of putting mirrors behind the girls. Getting them to face the seats is no mean feat. If you were a ‘butt’ person, you would love that setup.
I am in the car on the way back to Angeles City from Subic. One of the results of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 was the formation of six or seven rivers with ash and mud as the riverbed. Before the eruption, these were streams and creeks. Now they are 700 meters wide! When we have storms, the mud starts flowing and at times bridges are damaged, and alternate routing has to be found. Such is the case for the most direct route between AC and Subic. We now have an 8 km detour to cross the river. It only adds 15 minutes to the trip, but what has impressed me are some of the very nice houses along the detour. Most of the places are relatively new; they are rendered and have satellite dishes. If it were not for the fact that they do not have broadband, these little villages could be a fun place to live.
Rural living might be fun. Since there is little language difficulty, getting basic services would be a snap. The cellular network encompasses virtually the entire country so keeping in touch is easy. I have a GRPS/EDGE card for my notebook, which puts out around 80 kbps in non 3G areas and 1.8 mbps when there is 3G available. The former is painfully slow for almost everything, but still fast enough for email, MSN/YM and fair for Skype.
Here is some great news for both tourists and people seeking retirement visas. You can now stay 2 years without leaving. This requires a visa extension every 3 months. These take a few minutes to get and are available at any Bureau of Immigration and Deportation office countrywide. Retirement visas now require a deposit of only US$20,000 versus the previous $50,000. I suspect this was done to compete with Thailand’s requirement of having 800,000 Baht on deposit at renewal time. That, to me, is a great system. You make the deposit, get the visa and have the funds available for living expenses whilst your stash sits abroad and draws good interest. I need to check a bit further, but it is my understanding that persons already living here and wishing a retirement visa only need to pay a fee of US$1,500! If that is the case, I will be there soon. The visa never expires and it grants unlimited departures and returns.
I am told we are getting a number of visitors from Pattaya starting 3 Sept. If any of you read this column, please be sure to swing by. Our group will do everything possible to make your stay an enjoyable one.
That is enough rambling for one week. Please let me know if there is anything you would like to read about. My email is [email protected]