Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) President Stuart Bowe said he believes that most hotels are compliant with their obligations to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).
The hotelier told Guardian Business that the BHTA is aware that some hotels have been delinquent in their BEC payments, but is not aware of any specific hotels.
“Recognizing that the past several years have been extremely challenging financially for many companies, we have requested BEC's support in working with hotels on payment arrangements,” he said.
“We have also encouraged our members who are delinquent to contact BEC to agree on a payment plan. This is really a matter between BEC and its customers.”
Bowe pointed out that energy costs continue to pose a “major” challenge to the hotel sector, representing anywhere between 15 and 20 percent of a resort’s operational costs.
“This is a major challenge for the industry. Next to labor, it represents the second highest expense. Energy costs represent between fifteen and twenty percent of operating costs.”
However, he did stress that every hotel has a responsibility to meet its BEC obligations and he is therefore encouraging any affected parties to negotiate a payment plan with the corporation.
“The anticipated reduction in the fuel charge, which we have been told will result in as much as a ten percent reduction in energy costs, presents a great opportunity for those savings to be applied to one's outstanding balance,” according to the BHTA chief.
Last week, BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller sent out a warning to major hotels and large commercial consumers to either pay up or face disconnection, as the corporation clamps down on arrears.
Miller said BEC is owed millions of dollars and the corporation cannot allow major hotels and other companies to remain delinquent. One company reportedly owes BEC $10 million.
“Now the big fellows out west, who can pay, we are going after them, and we will go after them because they can afford to pay,” Miller revealed recently during a press conference at BEC’s headquarters on Baillou Hill Road.
“You know who pays their bill? When you go to any hotel in this country you will see on your bill that fuel fee.
“In other words, the guests are paying most of that bill and the hotel is pocketing the damn money. So we are going to deal with them over the summer. We will turn them off.”
Though he did not say which hotels, Miller noted that they are not the only big companies that owe considerable amounts of money.
He said a hotel on Paradise Island, which closed several years ago, also left a multimillion-dollar bill.
“When they closed down years ago, they left BEC high and dry for over $3 million, but yet you’re putting pressure on the small man in this country, who carries the burden,” he said.
Miller said the hotels faced with disconnection may use the Bahamians they employ as leverage by threatening staff layoffs, but he said there must be a shift away from that type of thinking, and all customers must come to understand that what is owed must be paid.
“Now when we threaten to turn them off you know what they say, ‘we will send 100 people home’. But why don’t you try to send the 100 people home and see what the end result is?” Miller said.
“You are not doing us any favors. You are in this country to make money. We have to get this concept out of our heads that the ‘man’ came here to do us a favor.
“Nobody came here to do us any favors. They come here to run a profitable business. If they couldn’t make
“Nobody came here to do us any favors. They come here to run a profitable business. If they couldn’t make money in The Bahamas they would go elsewhere.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: July 2, 2013