Irene Prompts Hotel Upgrades

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THE MINISTER of Tourism and Aviation, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, said yesterday that the impact of Hurricane Irene had forced many hotel properties to accelerate their renovation plans.

"We had a great opportunity to really go and see first hand on Eleuthera and Cat Island how the properties were doing, because we had heard some reports and, when we got there, the owners were there and said they didn't know where those reports came from," Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said.

"Except for some delay from opening for cosmetic stuff, generally speaking properties are in much better shape than we though a the beginning. In the Family Islands the good thing is many of the properties would have been closed anyway for renovation.

"Some of them saw that as an acceleration of their plans. Some of them were thinking they weren't going to do anything until next year.

"Now they're agreeing to do it now. So we think the properties are going to come out further ahead than they have ever have been as a result of what has happened."

Frank Comito, executive vice-president of the Bahamas Hotel Association, told Tribune Business: "We have been to Cat Island, Harbour Island and Eleuthera in the past two days, as well as Abaco and the cays.

"There are some hotels that have had a little bit more moderate types of damage, which requires a bit more. Other than that, it's cosmetic work.

"We are encouraged that the Government has put in for the hardest hit areas some Customs duty exemptions that will stimulate some upgrades in investments, and we'll be getting the word out to encourage as much of that as possible.

"Typically this time of the year, particularly in the Family Islands, the small hotels will close down for a month and a half or so, and that down period is when they do some of their maintenance upgrades and so on.

"With the recession the past couple years it's been difficult to put a lot of money in that, but the hurricane may prompt some additional investments in those areas."

The Tribune