“A staggering fall of 27%, despite increased airlift out of Canada and the US!”
Is the traditional Barbadian Hotel a dying breed?
I was tempted to pose this question after studying a recent accommodation occupancy report produced by the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association.
The BHTA, according to its website, represents ‘over 80% of the total room stock on the island’, divided into three categories. Luxury, ‘A’ Class and ‘B’ Class, which includes many of the smaller properties, apartments and guest houses!
2009 average occupancy by month were as follows:
January – 54%
February – 82%
March – 66%
April – 56%
May – 48%
June – 34%
July – 32%
August – 24%
September – 45%
October – 63%
November – 65%
December – 69%
According to a list published by the Barbados Tourism Authority up until 15th December 2009, there were a total of 6,606 rooms across the 152 registered accommodation providers.
Therefore if you accept that the BHTA statistics are representative for all registered properties that means that over 3,094 rooms remained empty every single night of 2009.
Or put another way, a mind boggling 1.13 million empty room nights or the capacity to accommodate another 322,686 long stay visitors, based on an average 7 night stay and two persons per room.
BHTA figures for the first four months of 2010 do not look anymore encouraging, with January being the only month that showed any occupancy growth over last year.
Perhaps most alarming of all, February, traditionally our peak earning month, witnessed a decline from 82% in 2009 to 63% this year.
A staggering fall of 27%, despite increased airlift out of Canada and the US!
What is not factored into this equation are the scores and possibly hundreds of unregistered accommodation providers. Of course, if they are not registered with the BTA, which is a legal requirement, but is not enforced, nationally we have no idea if these properties meet fire and safety, insurance and hygiene minimum standards.
Clearly occupancy levels of 24%, 32% or even 34% are not sustainable in a high operating cost environment.
There have been several ‘calls to action’ by both people deeply involved in the tourism industry or those observing it recently.
The outgoing President of the BHTA, Wayne Capaldi suggested resurrecting a national marketing committee, and I personally think this is an imperative, if we are going to make positive progress.
Whether this can be done without political interference, while attracting the most highly motivated creative people, with controllable egos and an absence of self interest, is a big question.
Another headline that grabbed my attention was, ‘Lack of execution in tourism – A National shame’.
At first it may seem a little harsh, but I am glad it has been said, because in reality, it’s very close to the truth.
The objective of these comments are not intended to apportion blame to anyone, but more to question if we really are doing everything within our ability to bring about a more viable, visitor friendly tourism industry.
9th May 2010