Tourism businesses ask “How much worse can it get?”
Sometimes so many statistics and figures are bandied about in the tourism industry, that it is easy to be distracted from any cause and effect that these may have.
Take the recently announced long stay visitor arrival figures for January and February 2013 for instance: a 9 per cent fall for each month. While that may not appear devastating in numbers alone, you have to look past the percentage decline. These are two of our critical four peak winter months. Add the fall in arrivals during December 2012 and already the heady predictions of a strong winter are completely out the window.
In January 2012 , we welcomed 52,619 stay-over visitors and in February 2012, some 54,162. Many hoteliers rely on the winter for not only a high room occupancy level, but also the premium rates charged over this period.
December 2012 welcomed 52,174 persons, which naturally includes what is probably the busiest time of the year, Christmas and New Year, for most properties.
Compare arrivals with summer months and you can get a feel of the importance of winter volume and revenue. As examples, August 2012, which could have the benefit of Crop Over and visiting friends and relatives, 43,191 and June 2012, 36,656.
From an economic point of view, if you use one of our West Coast 4 star hotels of about 100 rooms to measure the losses, who charges US$709 per room per night in the winter. Then average a typical stay of 7 nights which produces US$4,963 for that room over that period. The same room charge in the summer, falls to US$282 or US$1,974 for the week. A massive 60 per cent less income, and that’s before you factor in specials like offering 7 nights, but paying for six.
Of course it’s not quite that simple as Barbados is a largely tour operator dependent destination – which would negatively influence net room rates. But I would guess that while the figures may vary, the proportions do not.
Some industry observers have been quick to blame the ongoing Almond Beach Village closure to our current dismal performance, but the facts do not substantiate this is any meaningful way. Even if the hotel was open – based on the same average stay, two persons each room and operating to a 80 per cent occupancy – the very most this could have effected the numbers were 2,798 guests for January and 2,528 for February.
The actual arrival falls were 4,735 in January and 4,874 in February. And this is based on what must be a clearly fallible theory that travel professionals, operators or agents, were not able to switch sell the original hotel of choice to their clients.
So the obvious question is; if potential clients were not accommodated at Almond Beach Village, where did they stay? Or was another holiday destination chosen?
The losses don’t just end at the hotel. Less car rentals, restaurant dining, shopping, excursions and activities, reduced staff hours worked etc, and this all has a dramatic influence of reducing the taxes Government collect.