Tourism Not Expected To Rebound For Another Year

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While hotel performance for September and October appears to be "slightly better" than the same period last year, a tourism expert does not expect the industry to fully rebound from the grips of the economic downturn for at least another year.

Frank Comito, executive vice-president of the Bahamas Hotel Association, said despite what he expects to be a modest boost in performance over the last two months, the sector should remain braced for a rough ride lasting until late 2010, early 2011.

He said: "We have a very difficult several months that we are going through right now. We anticipated that this would be one of the most difficult periods we would face but we're hopeful our business activity will hold its own over these couple of months or be slightly better than last year at this time.

"Our indicators said that our activity for September and October is slightly better over last year. We don't anticipate coming out of this economic difficult time without any robust activity for at least the next year but we're hoping we will continue to see some slow steady improvement as confidence is restored globally and there are many signs indicating that."

Mr Comito spoke to The Tribune on the sidelines of a press conference to announce an upcoming energy conference and business trade show hosted by BHA, the Chamber of Commerce and the US State Department.

"But it's still going to be a tough road particularly over the next two months and next season. It's just too early to really predict where we're going to be at," he added.

Mr Comito stressed that despite the dismal market, now is the time for companies to "buck the trend" and invest in aggressive marketing.

"Both the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism as well as the industry have marketed themselves much more aggressively realising that the pie is smaller and to retain some level of proportionality of market share in the pie we have to be much more aggresive."

Mr Comito's assessment is in line with the International Monetary Fund's recent report on the state of the region's tourism product.

According to previous reports, the IMF listed the Bahamas among the Caribbean nations that suffered the highest declines in tourist arrivals during 2009. The IMF also predicted that a turnaround in the sector is not expected before 2011.

For the year up to May tourism arrivals to the Bahamas were down by 14.1 per cent, compared to a 3.4 per cent increase for Jamaica and falls of just 2.4 per cent and 9.4 per cent for the Dominican Republic and St Lucia respectively, said the IMF's assessment of the Caribbean's tourism outlook.

Also making out slightly better than the Bahamas were Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda, whose tourist arrivals to July 2009 were down by 10.7 per cent and 12.8 per cent respectively.

According to the report, the only Caribbean nations dealing with a tougher situation than the Bahamas were St Vincent & the Grenadines and St Kitts and Nevis, who were off by 17.4 per cent and 27 per cent respectively for the year to June 2009.

Meantime, hotel occupancy rates for the month of September are expected to be released within "the next couple of days", Mr Comito said.

"They don't appear to be, on the whole, worse than September of last year but we'll have the results shortly on that," he told The Tribune.

Source: The Tribune