Hotel Industry Is At 60% Of Pre-Recession Revenue Levels

THE Nassau/Paradise Island resort industry is "60 per cent of the way back" to pre-September 2008 levels on revenue generation and occupancies, the Bahamas Hotel Association's (BHA) president said yesterday, telling Tribune Business he estimated the sector would return to pre-recession numbers by the 2011 second quarter.

Robert Sands, who is also Baha Mar's senior vice-president for external and governmental affairs, told this newspaper that while the Bahamian hotel industry was expecting to continue its year-over-year improvements through the August-November period, albeit at a smaller margin compared to the first seven months of 2010, the sector was "better than half-way back" to 2008 levels in several key indicators.

"If you look at where our year-to-date figures are, we are still doing a little bit better than half-way back to 2008, certainly in terms of occupancy," Mr Sands told Tribune Business. "We're making some inroads in terms of rate, although revenue generation is still down because that and occupancy levels are still lower.

"We're maybe 60 per cent of the way back to 2008 in terms of revenue generation and occupancy levels. The good thing is that in 2010 compared to 2009, we've been consistently beating 2009, and if we continue to plug away at that, there's no reason why we can't get back to 2009 levels some time in the 2011 second quarter."

Tribune Business reported yesterday that the Bahamian hotel industry was concerned that current forecasts for September/October, the slowest part of the tourism season, were "fairly flat" when measured against 2009 comparatives.

Commenting on that period, Mr Sands said yesterday: "I think we're looking for consistent improvement, albeit small, and smaller than what we've accomplished for the first seven months of the year." However, year-over-year improvements were expected for the August-November 2010 period.

As for group business, Mr Sands said there were "indications business is beginning to return; the phones are ringing again for bookings to take place, which is a positive sign".

Figures released on Tuesday continued to show a gradually improving financial and operating environment for the Bahamas' largest private industry, with a joint BHA-Ministry of Tourism survey showing that for July 2010, occupancy levels recorded by 14 New Providence hotels averaged 78.2 per cent, compared to 78.7 per cent in July 2008.

This was the highest recorded average occupancy since the latter month, and is significant given that July 2010 was just 0.5 per cent behind its 2008 comparative a reading taken just before the September Wall Street crash sparked by Lehman Brothers' collapse. The Bahamian hotel industry has targeted matching pre-September 2008 comparatives to confirm it is pulling out of the slump induced by the credit crunch and global recession.

Further positive news came from the year-over-year increase in average daily room rates (ADRs), which increased by $18.33 compared to 2009, producing a 17.4 per cent room revenue boost and 8 per cent rise in room nights sold. For July 2010, the average ADR at the 14 New Providence hotels was $229.47, compared to $211.14 last year.

The BHA-Ministry of Tourism survey added that of the 14 properties, 12 reported room revenue increases, with 10 showing "double digit" growth.

Still, both the ADR and room revenue for July 2010 continued to lag behind pre-recession levels, as the ADR for July 2008 was $241.06 compared to $229.47 this time around, while room revenue was off by 8.4 per cent compared to two years ago.

The Tribune