By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMIAN hotels are enjoying an average four percentage point occupancy increase to 60 per cent, the Minister of Tourism revealed yesterday, adding that room revenue was up by the same amount.
Speaking with Tribune Business outside the Cabinet Office yesterday, Obie Wilchcombe said those numbers were “significant”, as they indicated this nation was seeing growth in key areas.
“My statistics department informed me yesterday that occupancy levels are now averaging around 60 per cent nationally; that’s very good. We’re up 4 per cent,” he said.
“We’re also seeing that room revenue is up another 4 per cent. That’s significant because that means that we are seeing growth in the areas that are important, because you can have the visitors but you have to have the spend. That’s going to be very good for us so we have to continue it.”
Mr Wilchcombe said 2015 was poised to be “a hell of a year” in terms of hotel room inventory for this nation, with a number of resort properties expected to come on stream.
“The inventory is going as well. We feel good about Baha Mar. We feel good about the addition of SLS, Warrick is going to close on July 7 and open next year in February with more rooms and new amenities,” Mr Wilchcombe added.
“The Nassau Palm will open up at the end of the year. The Holowesko project, the Mahoganny, that’s being prepared right now and getting ready to open next March, so 2015 is going to be hell of a year in terms of inventory, but now we have to fill the beds.
“The concern I had before was that we didn’t have the inventory. Now we have the inventory. It’s continuing to grow. We have to utilise more marketing, we’re going to spend more money, more on television and more print, said Mr Wilchcombe.
“Tourism numbers are looking good right now. Airlift is up in New Providence 3.1 per cent. It’s up in the Family Islands more than 4 per cent, in Grand Bahama more than 33 per cent. Airlift is looking quite good. We have new airlift coming to the Bahamas.
“We had new flights started from Washington earlier this year, in May. July 1, Southwest will begin new service to the Bahamas. That’s significant. Southwest now can travel outside of the US, they can go into international markets, and the three countries they are going into in the very beginning would be Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas,” he added.
“We are going to be touching some of the areas where their gates are. We have new airlift coming from Delta, United and Country Sun all this year. Our numbers are increasing but what’s also important is our marketing. It’s getting better because we have our teams on the street again.”
Mr Wilchcombe said the Ministry of Tourism was looking for greater promotion of the domestic tourism sector. “If we can have more events on our islands and cause more promotions at better cost, in terms of airlift and hotels, then we will be able to grow our islands even more,” said Mr Wilchcombe.