President Provides Overview of 2011 and Challenges for 2012
Prime Minister Outlines Support for Industry and Commends BHA Member Volunteerism
Members of the Bahamas Hotel Association reaffirmed their commitment to last year’s leadership team by re-electing the 2011 team for another year. The election was held last month at the organization’s 59th Annual General Meeting which was followed by a luncheon, where the Prime Minister offered the keynote address.
Stuart Bowe, Senior Vice President at Atlantis, who was re- elected President, thanked BHA members for their support in 2011. “I wish to thank the members, our Executive Committee, and our staff for giving me the opportunity to serve as your President in 2011. It has been a year of positive change and continued challenges both for BHA and our industry” he stated while reporting on the year’s accomplishments and challenges.
Bowe pointed to the continued trend of marginal improvement industry-wide. He reported that while overall stopover visitors will likely end down slightly in 2011, room occupancy and room rates continued to inch upward. He shared a comparison of both room occupancies and room rates from 2007 to 2011 for periods between January and July which showed overall for The Bahamas that the recovery has continued in 2011 with room occupancies during these periods improving in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The Family Islands showed the greatest proportional improvement, Nassau-PI had marginal improvement, and Grand Bahama experienced a dip in 2010 but rebounded in 2011 showing a further dip in 2010 but this year thru July showing room occupancy just above their 2008 level.
He also shared with members information showing room rates thru the 2007 to 2011 period each year to July. This indicated that Nassau Paradise Island (NPI) and The Bahamas overall have been able to recover much of the rate loss from a bottoming out of rates in 2009. Grand Bahama and the Family Island properties have not been as fortunate and while their room occupancy increase levels fared better than Nassau between 2008 and 2011, their rates have not.
“The trends suggest overall marginal improvement in revenue and occupancy for the destination. The variances with the NPI hotels are likely attributed to a return of group business to near pre-recession levels, which benefit the NPI hotels due to their focus on this business; coupled with easier air access into NPI and the promotional offers they are able to provide with airlines to reduce the overall travel cost.”
Regionally, Bowe reported, according to Smith Travel Research 2011 year-to-date to October, hotels in The Bahamas reported a 6.2% increase in room occupancy over 2010 – which is the fourth highest increase in the region behind Turks and Caicos, Cancun and Curacao.
“So while we are still struggling, we are comparatively holding our own and continuing to show marginal improvement. As we look at Nassau Paradise Island major hotel performance through November, data which we have, it supports this. It also shows less than projected performance levels for January and August-September, which we mostly attribute to bad weather” added President Bowe.
On the positive side, he reported that additional airlift has and should continue to help industry performance. This includes the COPA flights now linking The Bahamas to Latin America, the introduction of additional service out of the New York City area from JetBlue and soon from Delta. This should help to counter in 2012 the estimated 2011 15% drop in business from the NYC metro area attributed to lift loss earlier in the year. The Family Islands have seen some increase in airlift as has Grand Bahama and we are hopeful that this will continue in 2012.
Bowe commended the Promotion Boards, the Ministry of Tourism and in Nassau, the Nassau Airport Development Company, all which are actively working on new airlift development as well, something which BHA helped to facilitated early on in this process.
“We are also encouraged by the airport improvements in Nassau and Abaco, and other initiatives underway, including changes in historic Nassau, which will improve our overall product and appeal” he added.
2011 was not without its challenges according to President Bowe.
"While we’ve made progress, our challenges continue. Uncertainty in the global economy, high utility and operating costs, the availability and affordability of airlift, competitive pricing pressures, operational challenges of our small hotels; these are continuing challenges. We are presently surveying members to get a better sense of priority areas to focus on in 2012 and will continue to work with our partners to better address their defined needs” he added.
Bowe pointed out that “The availability of qualified workers will present a challenge to all businesses in The Bahamas as Baha Mar nears completion. While efforts are already underway by various stakeholders to prepare for this, additional emphasis must be placed on education and training to minimize the impact and create opportunities for young Bahamians and upgrading of the skills of our existing workforce.”
At the meeting, members were provided with BHA’s 2011 Activity Report which outlined the range of activities the organization engaged in throughout the year and also listed more than 300 volunteers who have worked with BHA on its various projects and programs.
In addressing the nearly 200 BHA members and industry partners attending BHA’s AGM luncheon, Prime Minister The Right Honourable Hubert A. Ingraham detailed a number of measures which the Government has put in place and is planning in support of the tourism industry’s long-term growth and sustainability.
“I believe that when historians look back at the effects on The Bahamas of what has been the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, I believe that they will take note of the resilience and ingenuity of both the private and public sectors. They will note that we moved from crisis to opportunity, and finally took and carried out big decisions and decisive actions needed to place it on track for long term sustainability” stated the Prime Minister.
Describing investments in airports in Nassau and Marsh Harbour, additional airlift and new gateways for a number of islands, road and utilities improvements, the revitalization of Nassau, and other initiatives, the Prime Minister also commended the industry for its collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism on promotional efforts, which have helped to minimize the impact of the recession.
In his welcome remarks at the luncheon, BHA President Stuart Bowe pointed to the “hundreds of volunteers who stepped up to the plate in 2011 and worked on the many BHA activities undertaken with schools, students, on matters of energy efficiency, the environment, visitor safety, industry development, marketing, special events and industry-government relations.” He expressed appreciation to Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace for the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation’s strong partnership support throughout the year.
Picking up on this in his address, the Prime Minister commented “It is noted and commendable that in 2011 BHA has been able to facilitate the engagement of hundreds of hospitality industry professionals and others in a range of industry and betterment activities including: Scholarships and programmes in our primary and secondary schools; energy efficiency and environmental awareness initiatives; and support programmes for small businesses.
I want to commend many of you in this room for volunteering your time and talent, and in many instances providing financial support, to help make a positive difference in your industry and our country. I want to call for your continued support and for you to look at even more ways to contribute to the betterment of The Bahamas – which in many ways is also an investment in your business and the ongoing success of our tourism and related industries” he added.
Attendees at the luncheon were encouraged by students who are engaged in BHA supported programs to continue their investments in young people, as the students pledged to continue to prepare themselves to take advantage of the opportunities which the industry presents.
2012 LEADERSHIP TEAM
President Stuart Bowe, Senior Vice President Stephen Kappeler, Treasurer Peter Maguire and Corporate Secretary and Executive Vice President Frank Comito were re-elected at BHA’s Annual General Meeting in December. Other members of the 2012 Executive Committee appointed by President Bowe and pictured with Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham and Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace include: Sandy Sands, Immediate Past President; Vice President for Out Islands Shavonne Darville; Vice President Nassau-Paradise Island, Pablo Torres; Nina Maynard, Small Hotels Chairperson; Vernice Walkine, Allied Member At-Large Representative; and not in group photo is Stephen Kappeler; Beverly Saunders, Chairperson for Workforce Development; and Magnus Alnebeck, Vice President for Grand Bahama.