The quality and not the quantity of Barbados’ hotel room stock needs improving, says President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Sunil Chatrani, who also reiterated today that hoteliers were anxiously awaiting promised concessions from the Government.
Today he responded to the Government’s plans to pump $200 million into the dilapidated Sam Lord’s Castle in St. Philip telling Barbados TODAY that while he was not opposed to the historic site being refurbished, the Freundel Stuart administration needs to be careful on how its goes about putting the hotel back in operation.
Chatrani was adamant that there must be a level playing field.
“I do not have an issue with the Government of Barbados building a hotel to [specifications] to be leased out to a third party. It is important though, that the lease arrangements be in line with the current market rates. If it is below the market rate, it would be just another way of subsidizing an operation. All hoteliers need to compete on an even playing field in order for the forces of demand and supply to work,” the BHTA President said.
Chatrani went on to explain that the island currently has approximately 7,000 rooms, which equates to roughly 2.6 million room nights per annum. The average year round occupancy, he said, was only 66 per cent, which meant that there were some 900,000 room nights still available.
“Don’t get me wrong, no hotel runs at a 100 per cent. My point is simply that we have spare capacity. Even in our pre-recession years this was the case.
“In my opinion the problem we have with the room stock is not one of quantity, but it’s the quality of the room stock that is below par. The existing room stock needs to be improved adding new room stock will improve it but we still have the problems with the old room stock,” he explained.
The BTA president also called on the Government to deliver on the much needed concessions promised eight months ago to improve on what he described as a “deteriorating product”.
“I am starting to sound like a broken record but we need to have the approved concessions in place. It’s almost too late for the next season, as most hoteliers have planned to do their renovations during the months of June or December in time for the coming winter period, which starts in December. The approval of these concessions was made public at the reopening of Almond/Sandals since January 2014,” he said.
Chatrani also said the general public was of the impression that hoteliers were already benefiting from government concessions, which he said was simply not the case.
“We continue to manage our operations, which is a deteriorating product, because you are simply not in a position to reinvest due to our high costs and low returns on investment. However, it is better late than never and I now understand that we should have these concessions in two weeks time,” he said.