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Hotels Eye Highest Occupancy Since '07

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Stuart Bowe

The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has elected its 2013-14 leadership team at the 60th Annual General Meeting (AGM), with its president and the minister of tourism before calling for improved industry service levels.

BHTA president Stuart Bowe said: “The industry turned the corner in 2012. This year will end with the highest average occupancy since 2007, our benchmark year, with average room rates continuing to improve but still below 2007.

“Despite higher operating costs and lower levels of visitor spending, 2012 represents a positive change in our sector of the economy.”

But Mr Bowe warned: “Our industry remains challenged on account of the sluggish US economy and pressure on many international economies.”

Tourism Minster Obie Wilchcombe, who joined BHTA members at the meeting, emphasised the importance of a broader commitment to providing exceptional service.

“Service begins before the visitor leaves home. We need a cooperative effort with all stakeholders to deliver on our promise that ‘It’s Better in the Bahamas,” said the Minister.

Elections were held at the meeting, with several members re-elected to their positions.

Stuart Bowe, senior vice-president for Kerzner International, will continue as president. Peter Maguire from the Lyford Cay Club, continues in his post as treasurer. Shavonne Darville, owner-operator of Gems@Paradise on Long Island, was re-elected vice-president for the Out Islands; and Magnus Alnebeck, general manager for Pelican Bay, continues as vice-president for Grand Bahama. BHTA executive vice-president, Frank Comito, was re-elected as corporate secretary.

New members elected to the Executive Committee include Sheraton Nassau Beach general manager Glenn Sampert, who will serve as senior vice-president. Patrick Drake, general manager for Sandals Royal Bahamian, was elected vice-president for Nassau/Paradise Island.

For the first time in the organisation’s history, BHTA’s allied members elected a vice-president to represent their interests on the governing body. Vernice Walkine, Nassau Airport Development Company’s vice-president for marketing and communications, will serve in that post. Members amended the organisation’s Articles earlier this year to elevate the Allied position, a strategic move tied to the renaming of the BHTA and the broadening of the organisation’s mandate.

Past president Robert ‘Sandy’ Sands will continue to serve on the leadership team in his capacity as immediate past president.

There were two returning appointments to the Executive Committee. Beverly Saunders, vice-president for training at Kerzner International, will return as the organisation’s chairperson for workforce development activities. Hotelier Nina Maynard, owner-operator for the Corner Hotel, continues to represent the small hotel interests on the Executive Committee.

The BHTA also released its 2012Annual Activity Report, highlighting its accomplishments and areas of activity.

“Our work in education, training, product development, research, membership development and advocacy was considerable. We must continue in this vein and challenge ourselves to do even more in 2013,” said Mr Bowe.

He outlined a number of priorities for the tourism industry, now and into the future. These include: maintaining global standards of customer service; continuing to strategically use the airfare incentive programme to drive business; building on the success of exciting and popular special events; appealing to niche markets; completing major infrastructural developments; continuing to aggressively expand airlift; and reducing high energy and operating costs without compromising service.

Mr Bowe indicated that a five-year strategic plan will be developed in the coming months to guide the organisation’s activities in 2013 and beyond.

“We will engage all stakeholders through conversation and a survey to assess the present situation, and establish achievable goals that are measureable and contribute to the advancement of our industry,” he said.

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