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|Bahamian tourism holding its own: Nassau Guardian|
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|Posted by:||Apr 10th 2003, 01:17:45 pm|
|Fig Tree News Team||Hotel industry says it's holding despite war
By LISA ALBURY
Guardian Business Reporter
Local hotels around the country seem to be faring better than expected. Early predictions on the health of the hospitality industry indicated local hotels would see a decrease in occupancy levels if the war were prolonged.
Occupancy in the capital appear to be "holding," according to general manager of Wyndham Nassau Resort Robert Sands, and hoteliers are meeting forecast projections.
"While our business levels are not to the levels like the year 2000, I still think that we have not seen a reduction in business levels that was anticipated to have happened as a result of the war."
"What this tells us is that the tourism product is resilient, that it is a product that customers want and it tells us that our country's proximity in terms of closeness and time is working to our advantage."
The major U.S. carrier to the Caribbean, American Airlines cut back flights to a number of destinations in the region, but not to The Bahamas.
That has worked well for the hotel industry, as access to air transportation has been proven to increase room occupancy levels in hotels.
"People want to travel to destinations that are close and there is no question that we are the closest foreign destination to the United States," Mr. Sands said.
The Wall Street Journal under the headline "Boom times in The Bahamas" reported Tuesday that tourism accounts for more than 60 per cent of export services in The Bahamas and that international arrivals to The Bahamas are up by four per cent this year.
It also said that though Atlantis had a decline in calls to its reservation centre after the war began, business has turned up.
"We expect the current quarter to be as strong as last year, and last year was a record," said Howard Karawan, executive vice-president of Kerzner International Ltd., which also that owns the resort and hotels in Mauritius and Mexico.
General manager of Holiday Inn, Richard Hall said the war has not affected the previous 50-per- cent occupancy level.
"We are still holding our own and this is very encouraging for us," he said. "I believe that it is finally starting to sink in to a number of consumers that you can't stop living because of global terrorism."
General manager of Radisson Cable Beach Resort Earl Bethel said he is optomistic even his hotel is not at the desired booking level.
"Things have not dropped off any extra because of the war. We had an initial injection of that in the area of cancellations at first, but since then, business has not been bad," he said. "The fact that The Bahamas is the closest Caribbean nation to the U.S. plays a big part in our advantage right now."
With this being the high season for most local hotels, operators are hoping to increase revenue to cover for the low season.
The Miami Herald has reported that the majority of Caribbean nations were fretful about the decline of tourism since the war began and quotes The Bahamas' Deputy Director General of Tourism Vernice Walkine saying: "I think through April, our hotels in Nassau, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama are going to be all right. The bookings are softer than last year, but not terrible. Forward bookings beyond April are very, very soft."
It also reported plans to launch a new marketing effort to boost tourism focuusing not so much on beaches but on assuring Americans weary of war and fearful of terrorism of The Bahamas' reputation as a safe tourist destination.
The message will also tout the proximity of The Bahamas, its English-speaking status and the fact that the U.S. dollar is at par.
"Under normal conditions, we take these things for granted," she said. "Now they're obvious benefits."
Caricom, the secretariat whose membership includes most Caribbean island jurisdictions, said the number of overnight visitors was 4.41 million last year, down by more than half a million from the 5.07 million in the peak year of 2000.
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