By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas could increase tourism's economic contribution by 50 per cent if it can drive hotel occupancies to an average 90 per cent, the Deputy Prime Minister believes.
K P Turnquest told the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association's (BHTA) annual general meeting that this meant a 30 percentage point increase in average occupancy rates to take care of the sector's 7,000 empty rooms on any given night.
He added this this also meant the Bahamian hotel industry matching the cruise ship sector's typical 90 per cent average occupancy. "If we were to move hotel occupancy to 90 per cent with a solid average room rate, we would have increased tourism GDP by 50 per cent without another major hotel development," said Mr Turnquest.
He added that on an average night there were 7,000 vacant rooms in the sector, and said: "We have to ensure that we get conditions right to begin filling those rooms even while we look to new investments on the horizon."
Mr Turnquest said Government was also conducting a "long overdue" exercise to examine the tax revenues generated by the tourism sector, and see what adjustments could be made to maximise revenues and reduce government subsidies.
He said: "We, along with the Ministry of Tourism, are conducting an exercise in the Ministry of Finance that is long overdue. We are looking at the tax revenue from tourism and seeing what adjustments can be made to optimise tax revenue, employment in the sector, hotel occupancy, return on investment and reduce government subsidies to the industry."