|Gloomy outlook for summer tourism|
|Monday, 19 April 2010 18:59|
The Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association does not have good news to report as the winter season draws to a close.
While President Karen Whitt did report an overall “moderate” increase in occupancy and revenues levels compared to 2009, she said the group is concerned about the plummet in the average daily rate. Because of the of the lack of destination marketing by the government, most resorts had to use promotions to drive business, Whitt said. The exception was Beaches Resorts and Spas, which reported record occupancy due to its own intensive marketing efforts.
“While cautiously optimistic, we still face a number of threats impeding our ability to recover from the fiasco of 2009,” Whitt said. The single largest threat is the lack of destination marketing. “We cannot overemphasize the negative impact this had on all private sector businesses who are reliant on tourism survival,” she said.
While the tourism industry waits for the government to finalize its plans, the country is slowing disappearing from the international radar, she said. Without the immediate implementation of an effective marketing plan and adequate marketing budget to promote the destination, TCI stands no chance of improving the dismal situation, she said.
Another major threat pointed out by the association is the “outrageous airfares to the TCI” being charged by the airline industry, which puts the country at a disadvantage. To remain competitive, the fares must come down, she said.
TCHTA Chief Executive Officer Ceasar Campbell said the monopoly that American Airlines holds on the destination is a major factor in the high fares. Both the Airport Authority and the TCHTA have been lobbying the airline to bring down their fares, but no major headway has been made to date.
The winter season officially closes at the end of April, when the early summer season will begin. Whitt says the outlook for summer is “gloomy at best.” She said a continuing trend of last-minute bookings and an increasing number of cancellations due to job/economic insecurity worldwide are contributing to the current crisis.
According to U.S. statistics, leisure travel is way down, but Whitt notes sporting and special events are keeping things going. In lieu of that trend, the association is supporting events like the Eco Swim Tour planned for this July. And the TCHTA says it will continue its own marketing and sales efforts and work in conjunction with the Tourist Board where possible.
At the same time, the association expressed serious concerns about recent comments from the governor about the new Tourism Authority — a suggestion of the Tourism Working Group.
“We have not seen the recommendations, and it was by surprise yesterday we heard that they are moving forward with some plan for a Tourism Authority where the funding is going to be derived from 1 percent of the accommodation tax, and they are asking also the industry partners to make a contribution in addition to that,” Campbell said.
Hotels are already paying an 11 percent accommodation tax. The 1 percent increase in accommodation tax that went into affect recently was based on a negotiation between the previous administration and the TCHTA with the understanding the 1 percent would go to the association to be used for marketing. So far the association has not heard anything about receiving those funds, and it appears the money will go to a new Tourism Authority.
There are some bright spots on the tourism horizon. According to the association, Canada remains a strong growth market for the TCI. The group plans to increase their awareness in that market. The association also says an opportunity exists for further development in emerging markets such as South America, which has proven to be a strong growth market for other islands in the Caribbean.
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