15% Drop in Party Bookings

Holiday event bookings are down about 15 per cent year-over-year at BahaMar's resorts, the company's vice-president of external affairs said yesterday, while party rental and supply stores are seeing the market teeter both ways.

Robert Sands told Tribune Business that the Wyndham and Sheraton resort properties have attempted to tailor their offerings to attract Bahamas-based corporations and businesses that have large numbers of employees to their ballrooms for annual holiday parties.

However, he said due to the economic slump the conference and catering departments withing the hotel have seen a trough in their Yuletide food/beverage and decor requests.

"The functions are not as rich as they were last year and numbers are not as high as last year. One or two functions have not rebooked," said Mr Sands.

"No business appears to have been exempt in the current economic environment. Every business has been impacted in some form or fashion - some more severely than others - obviously the majority in the opposite direction."

Mr Sands said some companies coming in are no longer embelishing their events, but rather cutting down on beverage and reducing the food budget to a pittance.

"We have created menus and are working to custom suit the menus to meet the budget needs," he said. "In the end, it is a business and needs to be profitable for us."

Representatives from Reflections Rentals and Party Supplies said they cater to a niche crowd, mostly upper middle to upper class patrons, and have not seen a substantial decrease in business year-on-year.

The representative, who wished to remain anonymous, said their customers have used their services for some 20 years, throughout which they have built up a loyal customer base.

Through the recession, Reflections has sought to improve its product offering in order to remain ahead of the ever-expanding party rental market, introducing chair covers, sashes and table overlays.

"They (their competition) are going into it, but not doing it all the way," said the Reflections representative. "We pride ourselves on having the cleanest tents, nicest linens and a variety of chairs."

Meanwhile, a representative of Celebrations Party Supplies and Rentals said people were "cutting back and they are watching their dollars".

The representative, who also wished to remain anonymous, asserted that last year Celebrations saw a major decline in business as the recession began to bear down on the economy.

Executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, Philip Simon, said party spending was discretionary and may not be a priority for many businesses.

According to Mr Simon, the Bahamas Chamber, which has two major social functions each year, is expected to have its annual Christmas Mix and Mingle, as its sponsors still seem to be committed.

Source: The Tribune