Operating a small hotel, clearly I have to declare a bias towards this sub-sector. But from a national point of view in terms of revenue and employment generation, have we ever analysed which type of our diverse lodging offerings proportionally delivers the highest net income to the country year after year?
What type of accommodation provides the most jobs per occupied room night and highest percentage turnover that remains in Barbados?
And this should not include just the bed nights, but secondary spending in restaurants, attractions activities, car rental, shopping etc. We should then ask which sub-sector consistently achieves the closest to published rack room rates, without having to dramatically discount to attract tour operators.
Then question which properties solicit the highest levels of guest satisfaction and repeat guests. If the world’s largest travel website, TripAdvisor, can be used as a barometer does the fact that every one of the top ten rated hotels in Barbados are small have any significance?
Just when you were beginning to think that it was almost impossible to absorb anymore increased operational costs and stay in business, out of the blue comes yet another surprise. This time for us, its a 50 per cent hike in our Land Tax Valuation.
The number of hotels that have closed over the last 16 years now exceeds thirty and that fact surely cannot have escaped the authorities. Their closure doesn’t seem to indicate improved viability in the sector or that the value of the accommodation property has dramatically increased. So where on earth can there be any logic in re-assessing our small hotel upwards by over 16.6 per cent per annum for the next three years?
Of course, we can object, providing we do it within 30 days of receiving the notification, but a week has been lost already, as the assessment apparently took a week in the post to reach us from Bridgetown, judging by its issuance date. To give that objection any real credibility, we would have to have a professional valuation undertaken, which again takes time and at speculative additional cost. In our case, valuers have indicated at least $7,000 and at a time when we are probably experiencing one of most difficult trading periods for decades.
I frequently wonder whether we as a destination have become overly dependent on tour operators filling the rooms of our accommodation providers. Of course it’s a balance.
Large room allocations to tour companies that may also be vertically integrated with airlines and even travel agents help protect air lift. Have any detailed studies been undertaken to evaluate the net differential financial value that stays within Barbados, when comparing direct bookings and those generated through the travel trade? Should ‘we’ be looking more at taking full advantage of using social media and the internet to drive a higher percentage of published price business?
What prompted these thoughts at this time was an anonymous person, posting on one of the more popular ‘blogs.’ queried the overall contribution of our small hotel when compared to a much larger property of 227 rooms. Less than 5 per cent of our occupied room nights are sold below published rack rate and all the revenue is banked in Barbados. Proportionally, even with our small staff, we employ 65 per cent more persons per room than the quoted ‘around 200’ employed by the larger hotel.