Hotel Occupancy Down 75%

Some Family Island resorts have suffered a lower than average slow season, down some 75 per cent compared to last year's 30 per cent occupancy levels, according to the Abaco Beach Resort's general manager. Some properties have closed altogether for the two-month slow period.

Bob Kramm said business was markedly down at many resorts across the wider Bahamas, adding that the economy has everything to do with it.

Mr Kramm operates the largest marina in the Bahamas, and one of Abaco's foremost resorts. However, he said the 25 to 30 per cent occupancy range his property has traditionally enjoyed year-on-year during September and October has been further reduced by close to 75 per cent.

When Tribune Business visited the property last week, the marina, typically containing a mass of pleasure yachts and sail boats, moored only several boat spread across its expanse.

"Normally there are more boats here," said Mr Kramm.

Like many resorts, the Abaco Beach Resort has not abandoned marketing campaigns despite the financially straining economic conditions.

According to Mr Kramm, his resort continues to advertise on the Internet and in specialist boating magazines.

While some hotels have been able to stabilise their visitor inflows through targeting niche markets, others have used the traditional slow season to conduct infrastructural upgrades and expand their room portfolio.

The Coral Sands hotel in Harbour Island, North Eleuthera, is currently constructing four new cottages on their property, which are scheduled to be open by year-end.

General Manager, Pamela Berry, told Tribune Business that 2009 will be the first year her resort will be open for the annual North Eleuthera Regatta. She said the town council asked if the resort could be opened, as the regatta often demands much of the island's available rooms, with visitors pouring in from Nassau and other Family Islands.

Ms Berry said Coral Sands' occupancy levels have been down like many other resorts across the Bahamas, but said the traditionally strong periods, such as Spring Break and the August European vacation season, were marginally good.

In August, Coral Sands was also host to a delegation of Miss Universe contestants, who dined for lunch and posed for photos on the beach adjacent to the resort.

Many resorts across the Caribbean have resorted to slashing rates, but many Bahamian resorts have been reluctant to do this because of their high operating costs.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, recently said most Bahamian resorts offer discounts to residents in an effort to boost domestic tourism.

Ms Berry said Coral Sands will offer a special 20 per cent off their room rates for this year's regatta.

With stopover arrivals to New Providence down some 14 per cent, Baha Mar recently had to shut down its Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino in order to reduce operational costs during the traditionally slow season.

Vice President of External Affairs at the resort, Robert Sands, said it was still too early to say if the closure had the desired effect, but he revealed that the resort and casino will be reopening as planned on October 5.

"Staff have been gradually coming back with a larger build up coming Thursday and Friday," said Mr Sands.

According to him, bookings for the month of October for the property have been picking up, though he asserts that the month will see very soft occupancy levels.

"We anticipate some good local business because of local groups and two political party conventions during the month of October, and a number of gaming events planned for the week after opening, which will also stimulate business as well as local food and beverage functions scheduled," said Mr Sands.

He said all but one of the resort's vendors are scheduled to return, and cab drivers who were forced to join the Sheraton's queue will now be able to return to the Wyndham.

Mr Sands contends that closing the resort for two months was one of the better strategic decisions Baha Mar has made.

"As we review the details of this event we will be at a position internally to review the full impact of the closing," he said.

Source: The Tribune