Opening a Hotel in the Midst of a Crisis is Crazy! How Did Castle Peak Thrive?

Opening a hotel in 1997 at a time when the Asian market collapsed, was probably not the best idea. Still, Castle Peak Hotel owner Charlie Tolentino’s family took a risk and soldiered on with the business. Today, the budget hotel is still thriving even as new hotels are cropping up all over Cebu. Founder’s Guide sat down with Charlie as he shared how his family rode the waves of the economic crisis and survived.

On overcoming the Asian financial crisis

Charlie revealed that business is all about sacrifice and prudent spending. As long as you have the right budget, your financial standing is good and you never incurred a big debt, anyone can create a successful business. He, however, cautions against overborrowing.

“Borrowing money is not bad. It’s not bad for expansion but overborrowing or borrowing over your equity is not good,” he advised.

The Castle Peak owner also shared their family’s rule when it came to borrowing money. “Our principle when it comes to borrowing is 70-30. 70% our money and 30% loan so we never overborrowed.”

It was due to this principle that they managed to overcome the economic crisis and made Castle Peak last.

Many hats he has worn in business

Charlie reveals that his family was into commodities trading but they also had a pension house on the side with around 20 rooms. His mother wanted to invest into something more solid, stable and long term, so they invested in real estate. Charlie then went around hotels doing ocular inspections and studying how they were run. At that time, there were only a few business hotels so there was definitely a market for there.

Even while he was taking up Business Management in the University of San Carlos, Charlie was already helping out in the family business. He started with tough jobs including being a cigarette salesman and helping out with his family’s copra business. Though it was tough, the low level jobs served as a good training job for him, especially when he took over the business.

Apart from being a businessman, Charlie is also a certified yoga teacher. He fell in love with the discipline after he became an accidental student of yoga training classes held in his hotel. He now teaches yoga as a hobby.

Advice for entrepreneurs

As a yogi, Charlie cautions entrepreneurs against having too much expectations, comparing it to yoga through a teaching by Bhagwat Gita:

“Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.”

He simply explains this as the need to concentrate on the effort and not about the fruits of that effort. He believes it’s easier to work this way, with feet grounded in reality rather than fantasy. Illusions of grandeur can lead to extreme disappointment and ruin a person’s life.

Jaime with Charlie Tolentino

Another thing Charlie advises would-be entrepreneurs to do is to accept that life is difficult. “When you acknowledge this, step by step, life becomes a little easier. Each day, you begin to see an inch of improvement whether it’s in your life or in your business.”

Vision for Castle Peak

Charlie hopes to strengthen the Castle Peak Brand by adding more value to the service they offer to clients. And they are doing it through add-on features that make accommodations at the hotel more appealing.

One of the hotel’s new features is a Pizza Pub, a casual dining experience where people can enjoy pizza + beer. With its own spa, gym, dipping pool, convenience store, salon and carwash, Castle Peak offers its guests “a little bit of everything” to make their stay more memorable.

For those who want to invest in the Philippines

Investing in the Philippines is a good thing. In fact, with many hotels opening, Charlie believes it’s made Cebu more dynamic in terms of the hospitality and tourism industries. For those who want to invest in the Philippines, he tells them the importance of studying and understanding the Filipino mindset.
“Starting a business in the Philippines is not easy. You need to make necessary sacrifices,” Charlie said. “But if you have patience and adaptability, you can succeed.”
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Camille Marie Marcon is a professional creative content writer who has worked for international companies from American to British to Australian and now Japanese. She has also worked as Freelance Marketing Consultant for a local startup in Cebu.

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