By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Family Island hotels can hit 90 percent of pre-COVID room nights sold with a strong over 2022’s final quarter, a senior tourism is predicting, voicing optimism the sector will “get closer” to its targets.
Kerry Fountain, the Bahamas Out Island Promotions Board’s executive director, told Tribune Business he was confident that member properties can further narrow the gap to pre-pandemic records and this year’s goals as they ready for the peak winter season that begins with the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year holidays.
Revealing that hotels were close to their 85 percent of pre-COVID room revenues target for 2022, he explained that room nights sold had been thrown off-course earlier in the year by the emergence of COVID’s Omicron variant and were still trying to catch up.
Pointing out that many Family Island hotels typically close during the late August through to September/October period, which coincides with peak hurricane season and the low point in the tourism season, often using the time to renovate and refresh, Mr Fountain told this newspaper: “I can tell you that, generally speaking, we are still holding our own.
“We’re not yet at 2019 room nights sold, stopovers and room revenues, but we’re probably at 80-85 percent of what we did in 2019. That was the best year on record in terms of room nights sold and room revenue. Before the end of last year, and before we were hit by the Omicron storm, we were predicting 96 percent of room nights sold in 2019, and about 86 percent of room revenues compared to 2019, for 2022.
“Those were our goals set in back in December last year, but we didn’t know at that time there would be this thing called the Omicron variant of COVID-19. While we have not hit our goals, 80-85 percent is still respectable.” Mr Fountain, though, said that rather than adjust the collective 2022 targets for member properties they had been left unchanged in the hope the industry would catch up.
This, he explained, will be aided by the fact the Bahamian tourism and hotel sector is up against weaker late-year 2019 comparisons due to Hurricane Dorian’s impact on visitor perceptions of The Bahamas. “While Abaco and Grand Bahama took the brunt, we were all hit by Dorian,” he explained. “The hurricane hangover did not just impact Abaco and Grand Bahama, but for a few months the entire Bahamas.
“The consumer, when they think of our market, they think of it as one island. We suffered a Dorian hangover for September, October and November 2019. I share that to say that while we would be fortunate to hit our goals set in December 2021, we anticipate gains from September to December this year, God willing, if we don’t have any major storms or hurricanes.
“That’s why we left our goals the way they were for room nights sold and room revenue because we think we can get closer to it. That, in a nutshell, is how we’re performing. Looking at the rest of the year, realistically I hope we get to higher than 80-85 percent. I hope we get to maybe about 90 percent. That’s room nights sold,” Mr Fountain continued.
“In terms of room revenues, we’re almost at our goal. Our goal was 86 percent. By the end of this year we will definitely hit our room revenue goal, but may fall behind slightly in terms of room nights sold.”