Barbados Hotel Occupancy down 27% during our peak month!

“A staggering fall of 27%, despite increased airlift out of Canada and the US!”

Is the traditional Barbadian Hotel a dying breed?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

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.

Adrian Loveridge
9th May 2010

4 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

4 responses to “Barbados Hotel Occupancy down 27% during our peak month!

  1. This probably is one of the reasons why the Thompson/DLP Administration is dithering on signing the loan guarantee that is supposedly holding up the restart of the Four Seasons project, also why word on the street is that Almond Beach Village is converting its two northernmost hotel blocks into condos.

  2. I read with surprise about Almond village turning some rooms into condos , I have questioned almond about this but have been told they know nothing. I have been to Barbados 12 times and sold the island for over 15 years but now are finding it expensive compared to other Caribbean islands. I think its time to let the UK charter airlines back in rather than just having BA and Virgin, you are now talking £500 for a flight even at staff rate and if you stay in a self catering apartment @ £30 a night that works out at £710 but for not much more you can do Cuba , Dom Rep etc on all inclusive. OK, if you are happy just having people that can afford to stay at Sandy Lane but those type of people don’t do the Gap or eat in local restaurants which helps the people of the island.

    Another area I would suggest you look at is the Airport, you have spent millions on improvements but when I arrived last November it was the longest I have ever waited to get my passport stamped, one and a half hours. It got to the point where staff went finding families and getting them sorted. You have to remember we have been on a flight for 8 hours and the last thing we need is to be stuck for an hour waiting to enter the country. I have a friend arriving on Saturday and have asked her to time it for me just out of interest and will post back to let you know. This is her first visit and I am wondering if she finds it acceptable.

  3. Peltdownman

    No doubt Almond bit off more than they could chew with their rapid expansion into St Lucia, along with the Almond Casuarina. Before they go off trying sell condos at the Beach Village, perhaps they should study the latest IMF report on the region and the prospects for tourism-based commodity importing countries such as Barbados. It’s not pretty.

  4. Hi

    Peltdownman I don’t agree about Almond St Lucia in the English market is does better now than the 3 barbados hotels, why because of price. I have sold the Almond hotels for more years then I can remember but now they are outpricing themselves in the market. The September price for two weeks all inc in september is £2114.pp but £200 of that is over airport gov tax. That is what is killing the uk market. Virgin do put on mega deals but now control most of the UK market not like the old days when Aitours Thomsons etc had charter flights coming in, we need more competition.

    I was hoping with the 20/20 cricket people would see Barbados on Tv and would fall in love and want to visit but in the UK its only on pay to view so not many people here watching it. If England get in to the final (something I thought i would never say) I wonder if the Local pubs will show it on TV but somehow doubt it, we are a Footballing National.

    What I would do to get tourists back is stop the private apartments on the west coast. I have friends that have been to Barbados more than myself (15 times) and we joke they are the kiss of death since most of the Hotels their have stayed in are now closed down- Coconut Creek, Sandridge , Golden palms, Regent, Sam Lords Castle, Club Rockley and others I can’t remember the names off.