Higher hotel occupancy expected in November

Monday October 19th, 2009

Hotels in New Providence and Paradise Island are projecting low revenue in the month of November, even as they prepare for higher occupancy rates than those seen last year as the North American Thanksgiving travel season picks up.

"Projected hotel occupancies for November are slightly above last year," Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) President Robert Sands said in a statement sent to Guardian Business. "While we expect higher occupancies, room revenue will be down."

It's a factor coming as a result of aggressive promotional packages now being offered to travelers, he said, in an effort for this destination to remain competitive in the marketplace. That move follows continuous declines in the amount of stopover visitors winging their way into the country.

This year a tough U.S. economy has stymied vacation plans for cash-strapped Americans, contributing to a more than 13 percent decrease in air arrivals to this nation compared to the same period in 2008.

It follows a steep airlift chop this fall, with Grand Bahama in particular seeing flights halved from a major low-cost carrier. Air arrivals to that island are down by 27.5 percent.

Cuts in airlift to that destination have manifested in the profit margins of nearly all of the hotel properties in the last year. It's a situation that has stressed the importance for hotels to offer incentives for travel at this time — something Sands said has recently been made easier.

"The projected increase in occupancy also is a result of the successful efforts of the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation and the hotel sector in attracting additional airlift," he explained.

It's a statement centered around the emergence of new routes to and from The Bahamas to North America that will start next month, in time for the travel season pickup.

Already American Eagle has planned an increase in service to and from Grand Bahama, and new services are also expected, starting in the upcoming months,

from WestJet and Delta. Normal airlift levels, however, are not expected to come before another few weeks.

"In November we will begin to see that additional lift," Sands added. "Given the short booking window we are experiencing, it is still too early to predict what kind of Christmas season we will have."

Airlines in the region have already announced fare decreases to accompany the Thanksgiving travel season in an effort to get travelers onboard. They are now challenged with filling available seats in a recession and managing overtime immigration/customs fees at this destination. Those airlines are also concerned about the recent move by the Nassau Airport Development Co. to bump up fees for use of the facility.

Still, Tourism is looking to re-assert a fare advantage over competing destinations, say officials, pointing to a fare adjustment to accompany reductions in airlift.

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