By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Major Nassau/Paradise Island hotels have enjoyed “growth in all key performance indicators” during early 2019, a leading hotelier said yesterday.
Carlton Russell, pictured, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) president, told Tribune Business: “Overarching tourism industry performance indicators for the first part of 2019 have been positive.
“Large hotels in the nation’s capital, cumulatively, have seen growth in all the key hotel performance indicators, including hotel occupancy, available room nights, room nights sold and Average Daily Rate (ADR).”
He added: “Air arrivals to New Providence, a substantive access point for Family Island travel, continued to experience double digit growth in the first two months of 2019. The majority of tourism industry stakeholders espouse a positive forecast for the first quarter of 2019 and beyond, as the first material addition to hotel inventory in recent history [Baha Mar] has helped to drive year-over-year-growth in tourism industry performance.”
Mr Russell said similar optimism ran through the majority of Family Island destinations, where airlift has significantly improved. “However, it is recognised that some Family Islands continue to face challenges in this regard,” he added.
“We are pleased to see pockets of robust growth in many sectors of our industry. Our challenge will be to ensure this is as widespread and sustainable as possible. Tourism stakeholders will need to continue to work assiduously with public sector partners to address the cost of energy and labour, two of the most substantive contributors to cost of doing business in the destination.”
When asked what could be improved upon in 2019, following what has been described as an “unprecedented” 2018 performance, Mr Russell said: “The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association applauds the efforts of the hardworking people, intricately or remotely connected, to the hospitality industry, who go above and beyond to provide guests with an unforgettable experience.
“We must continue our efforts to deliver a high quality, authentic experience to every guest that visits The Bahamas. From the very beginning to the very end of their stay, it is up to all of us, as tourism is everybody’s business.”
Mr Russell spoke after Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, earlier this week said Bahamian tourism is “firing on all cylinders” with forward stopover bookings for the next three months some nine percent ahead of 2018 comparatives.
He revealed that forward booking indicators for April - which contains the Easter weekend - were up 15.6 percent year-over-year due to the timing of when the holiday fell.
Confirming that The Bahamas’ higher-spending air arrivals were meeting projected early increases, Mr D’Aguilar said the 2019 first quarter was maintaining the momentum generated by an “unprecedented” 2018 performance.
“Several key markets registered double digit growth,” he added. “In February, international arrivals increased by 11 percent year-over-year. The forward booking situation for the next three months, March to May is optimistic, with forward bookings running nine percent ahead for international arrivals. April, which is ahead by 15.6 percent, shows the most favourable outlook.”
The figures revealed yesterday indicate that The Bahamas’ tourism performance is broadly in line with the forecast given by Mr D’Aguilar in January, when he told Tribune Business that projected air arrivals would be up 16 percent for three of 2019’s first four months.
Ministry of Tourism data shows forward bookings over the next three months, the March to May 2019 period, are running nine percent ahead for international arrivals. Its data partner, Forward Keys, which tracks and reports inbound visitor data from key markets, reported that international arrivals to The Bahamas grew by 15 percent in January 2019 versus January 2018.