The hoteliers body has expressed confidence that the tourism industry’s prospects will remain bright, even as it acknowledges “dark clouds” are on the horizon.
In his fourth quarter update, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s chief executive, Senator Rudy Grant, reported an increase in long-stay visitor arrivals year on year.
From January to October, total arrivals reached 547,618, an increase of 14,322 or 2.7 per cent over the previous year.
But there was a 3.4 per cent decline in total cruise passenger arrivals, which was recorded
at 467,397 for the January to October 2018 period.
“There are some dark clouds over the horizon but we are confident that we are able to navigate these weather systems to safeguard this very important industry,” said Grant.
Travel agents have expressed concern about the new travel and tourism taxes, but said so far they have not had any serious impact, he told BHTA members at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“There was concern expressed in relation to the introduction of the airport service charge as well as the increase in the VAT as of January 1, 2020. We, however, expect that performance will be at least on par with that of last year if not, better,” he said.
Following the recent World Travel Market, tourism officials recognised the need to boost the product offerings on the south coast and improve activities there.
“There was a recognition that there was an increase demand for all–inclusives, and that can be explained given the type of environment we are in and the challenges that exist in the UK with Brexit,” said Grant.
Also for the first ten months of the year arrivals from the US market grew 8.7 per cent to reach 167,958 visitors, the Canadian market grew by 2.9 per cent with 68,400 visitors, but arrivals out of the island’s main source market – the United Kingdom – were flat with growth of merely 0.8 per cent, reaching 176,023 for the period.
There were 27,964 visitors out of the Trinidad market – a 10 per cent drop – while the rest of the Caribbean grew by 4 per cent, with 65,087 visitors for the period.
But there was also a 21.8 per cent decline in visitors from Central and South America.
Grant reported a 3.1 per cent decline in occupancy for BHTA member hotels between January and October along with a 3.1 per cent increase in the average daily rate (ADR) for the same period.
But Grant did not give a report on visitor spend.
He said the BHTA’s Internal Occupancy Report, which is based on actual occupancy data for November, and projections for December to May 2019, showed that member properties were generally performing as well as the previous year.
“So between the period of December and [May] it seem that we are holding our own, but this is as it relates to the overall picture,” he said.
The luxury segment of the market recorded the same occupancy of 78 per cent in November 2018 as the year before, with occupancy rates predicted to be equally static through the winter season.
“I must make the point that these are projections and one of the things we have recognized is that the booking pattern has changed and a number of visitors are booking later. So these projections can change,” he cautioned.
The “A” class properties recorded a 73 per cent occupancy rate in November 2017 and a 75 per cent occupancy last month. The projections for December to January are higher than what was obtained for the same period a year ago.
The “B” class hotels and apartments, while reporting an occupancy of 63 per cent last month, a slight year-on-year improvement from 59 per cent but below the previous occupancy levels for all the projected months.
“Again it should be noted that booking patterns have changed and that there are a lot more persons who are booking much closer to the time of travel. It is therefore expected that the overall performance will be better than what is presently projected. It is therefore anticipated that for BHTA member properties the winter period will be as good as it was last winter with the possibility of the performance being better,” said an optimistic Grant.
Quoting the recently-released reggae artist Buju Banton, Grant said “it is not an easy road, many see the glamour and the glitter and think it’s a bed of rose”, adding that he was aware of the challenges and would continue to do what he could to help BHTA members.
He said it was necessary that obstacles to growth were removed, adding that in order to make Barbados the number one destination choice it would not be achieved by talk “but by a greater collaboration between stakeholders, the creation of a culture of excellence and recognition by all Barbadians that our survival depends on all of us giving of our best”.