Barbados’ slowly recovering tourism product is in need of an estimated 60 000 visitors per month consistently to ensure “healthy” occupancy levels for the island’s expanding accommodation sector.
This assessment has come from Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Renee Coppin, who indicated that while the total tally for summer performance was to come later this month, she was concerned that the performance this time of year remained static.
“My unscientific assessment points to the need for us to maintain arrivals of 60 000 passengers per month, with the current demographic mix and otherwise, to ensure healthy occupancies and performance across the range of our tourism products on the island,” said Coppin.
“We are currently only achieving these levels in the winter season, and we can’t sustain the business on four months . . . . The last reported arrivals by the Barbados Statistical Service was for June 2023 and that stood at 36 370 passengers. So you can see that this is simply not sufficient to feed the supply that we have of accommodation products.”
She said in addition to the larger accommodation segment, other direct tourism service operators, including attractions and restaurants, as well as the shared-economy members and smaller properties have also been reporting weak summer performance.
“The increase in local uptake of what has traditionally been considered tourism products is welcome. However, the results reported across our range of tourism products shows that it is insufficient to sustain the performance of the sector. We must still ensure that we continue to attract visitors who bring in much needed foreign exchange,” Coppin told those attending the BHTA’s recent third quarterly general meeting at Harrison’s Cave Eco-Adventure Park.
Already struggling to fill the more than 5 200 hotel room stock on island, Barbados is set to get over 1 280 additional rooms in the coming months – from the 422-room Wyndham Grand Sam Lord’s Castle Resort, 131-room Hotel Indigo, 120-room Pendry Barbados, 380-room Hyatt Ziva and the 230-room Royalton Resorts.
Coppin pledged continued support from the BHTA to the efforts of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTM) and other partners in driving airlift to the island in order to ensure hotel rooms are filled and other tourism operators benefit for the upcoming summer periods.
The last 12 months represented a full year of “normalcy” for the tourism industry, coming out of the lockdowns and travel restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coppin reported that occupancies for May, June, July as per the Smith Travel Research (STR) reports, were 51.2 per cent, 48.5 per cent and 52.5 per cent, respectively, when compared to the 49.6 per cent, 49.8 per cent and 52.7 per cent for the same months last year.
“This shows a relatively static performance for the summer to date. Projections for August from the secretariat survey placed business on the books at 48 per cent, which means that we were exactly on pace with the same period last year,” she said.
Last year’s occupancy for the month of August came in at 53.9 per cent and, with this year’s return to a full Crop Over season, Coppin said the BHTA was optimistic that this will be positively reflected when the STR occupancy numbers for last month are officially reported. (MM)