Adrian Loveridge Column – We Need a Plan to Fill Rooms All Year Round
This week, I would like to follow on from my tourism wish list for this year, but by putting suggestions on how we can make a meaningful difference to the industry locally.
Whatever we do collectively to increase airlift into Barbados, unless the average annual room occupancy for our hotels, villas and other accommodation options can be dramatically improved, we will remain as a largely seasonal driven destination. Plans, discussions, projections and alike indicate that if only a percentage of the ‘promised’ new hotels are eventually built, it could easily add 1,000 rooms to our total room stock.
Unless these largely brand named properties have some magical proven formula, then we will be faced with the same challenge, to fill those rooms in the slower summer months without further diluting existing hotels occupancy levels.
Like Hilton, some of the other anticipated big names have very successful guest loyalty programmes, which can be fine-tuned to encourage rooms being redeemed during softer months and if these ‘brands’ can partner with airlines to offer attractive flights to reach us, there is tremendous untapped potential. A classic example of this has been American Airlines offering special fares using lower required miles this year, citing Miami to Barbados for as little as 8,000 miles and US$7.10 in taxes.
The substantial change of use of the original Sherbourne or LESC conference facility has given us the opportunity to finally build a custom built alternative in a far more logical location. Unless, there is an imminent intention to re-start a hotel with at least 400 rooms plus at Sam Lords, which could logically work with The Crane, jointly offering a large conference and meeting facility, then, at least to me, the only logical location for a new multi-use centre would be at Needham’s Point.
Whatever, the ecological challenges still are at the former Holborn oil refinery, we cannot allow such a prime site to remain unused and idle, especially if more rooms come online in the same proximity with the proposed Hyatt and Indigo. Let alone any plans for redevelopment of the Radisson Aquatica and Savannah hotels, together with the St. Ann’s Fort site of the Royal Barbados Defence Force.
It must be overtly obvious by now, to our planners and policymakers, that those attending conferences want to be accommodated within comfortable walking distance of where their meetings take place. When you add to what is clearly one of the most spectacular sandy and swimmable bays in the entire Caribbean and offering a choice of eating and drinking establishments to suit all budgets, then, surely the combination is unbeatable?
Restore or re-build one or more piers, with additional restaurant choices and we would have a world class facility which would help drive increased airlift at off-peak periods. None of this is of course rocket science or has not been said before, in my case for over three decades, but perhaps the timing has never been better with an improved investment climate.
Let us not get carried away with adding vast amounts of new rooms, without a creative plan and vision to fill them.