Forward bookings for the hotel and accommodation sector are outpacing projections, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Barbados Hotel Tourism Association (BHTA) Senator Rudy Grant reported Wednesday.
Delivering an update at the BHTA Fourth Quarterly General Meeting, Grant said that the tourism sector which has struggled for the past 21 months remained in a delicate position even though there are signs of recovery.
“As it relates to our accommodation, we are anticipating that we will have occupancies in excess of 50 per cent. And I haven’t specifically identified the occupancy figures and it is for this reason: what we have been observing is that the projections we are making, the actual occupancies are higher than those projections.
“And I think that this is reflected in the fact that the booking window, even though reports are that it is increasing slightly, it is still very much last minute in terms of bookings, and we can attribute that in part to the uncertainty of the COVID environment and the caution which potential visitors are exhibiting.
“The occupancy levels are generally higher for luxury and ‘A’ Class and there is less of a demand for ‘B’ Class hotels. And I think it is necessary for us in our discussions on the various marketing campaigns that we would participate in, to seek to stimulate more business for this hotel category,” he said.
Senator Grant also shared that airlift coming into Barbados at this time, stands at 80 per cent of the total 2019 figure, in comparison to a global average of 60 per cent. He said the flights are arriving from ideal routes, critical for a successful winter season.
He further explained that it is also being reported that many visitors have been upgrading from their usual accommodation type and enhancing their value-added component, a change in behaviour which he said, is due to the recent re-opening of the global tourism landscape and the accumulation of monies that travellers would have saved.
The CEO said visitors are also showing a greater interest in booking villas which they recognize as a “good value for money option”.
Grant, who attended the BTMI [Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc] United States Safari RoadShow between October 25 and October 29 where he interacted with travel agents and trade partners, said they welcomed the elimination of COVID-19 testing for fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in Barbados.
He said at the World Travel Market held in London from November 1 to November 3, tourism officials were advised by Virgin Atlantic that the premier leisure business sector has been growing and that provisions were being made for additional seating capacity for scheduled cricket matches in Barbados in 2022.
“Many of the tour operators reported that Barbados is the strongest of the tour destinations in terms of selling. There were concerns raised again in terms of the existing curfew hours during the winter season and as I said before, that is not now an issue.
“Generally, most of the tour operators indicated that business for 2022 was up and ranging between 15 per cent and 50 per cent. British Airways informed that there is good demand for flights and that bookings for Barbados increased significantly in July once Barbados was placed on the UK Green List. Of course, British Airways is providing an additional 24 club seats, increasing from 48 to 72,” he said.
Senator Grant also said that in February 2020 based on the hotel occupancy report, there was an occupancy of 80.7 per cent and that plummeted to the lowest of 4.7 per cent in June 2020. He said between August and November 2020 occupancy averaged 20.8 per cent leading to officials anticipating a reasonable winter period that year which was interrupted by a second wave of the COVID-19 virus.
However, Grant said by July 2021 there was reasonable business activity with occupancy rising to 43.1 per cent, in August 57.3 per cent and in September 61.3 per cent. He added that in July 2019 long-stay visitor arrivals stood at 60, 249 persons, while in July 2020 those arrivals were 2 137 persons, and 10 890 persons for that same period in 2021.
“In September 2019 long-stay visitor arrivals were 36 863 persons, in 2020 it was 5 226 persons and in September 2021 it was 16 068 persons. Of course, what we would recognize is that even though the occupancy in September of 2021 was in excess of 60 per cent when you look at the number of long-stay visitor arrivals that would have come in in September 2019, it was significantly less. Therefore, we recognize that staycations did provide opportunities for many hotels to maintain their operations and to keep their properties opened,” he said.