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UK airlift woes hurting hotels

Carol-Ann Tudor

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Chairman of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados, Denis Tull, says the decline in the UK market has greatly affected properties within that group.Tull, in addressing the annual general meeting yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, said while the organisation’s members had managed to hold an occupancy level of 56 per cent during the last year, the airlift continued to be a major concern. He noted the “regretted” loss of capacity out of the British market, due to the loss of four airlines – Excel, First Choice, BMI and BWIA – which he said catered more to the Intimate group than to the island’s luxury “players”.Tull made a call for the “renewal of the policy that increases the country’s airlift capacity out of the UK market”.Tull said industry planners and tourism policymakers had to take into account the fact that while there had been gains in the other markets, the loss of the airlines had meant an overall net loss of seating capacity to Barbados. He said those new markets could not replace the UK market in either capacity or spending power.The chairman also called for a continuation of financial assistance from the Government, since the hotels’ future depended on it.  He added they needed to have a greater voice in the planning and policymaking of the local industry. Lamenting that the small hotels no longer had a representative on the board of directors of the Barbados Tourism Authority, which contributed to the overall marketing direction of the destination, he called for that sector’s reinstatement on the BTA’s board.Tull lauded the new service out of Brazil, saying the hotels in his group would be featuring Brazil prominently in their summer promotions, but said that given the difficult times, it would be challenging to grow and maintain that market. He noted that initiatives like those had to be brokered very successfully if they were to reap economic and social success.“It is our opinion that even as we seek to further open up and to build up this new market, we must get back to re-energising the British market in a more serious way.”Tull said that based on the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s reports, Barbados was in fact below the regional average for tourism performance when measured in absolute arrivals. “Additionally, we lag behind many of our regional neighbours in percentage terms for both arrivals and spending. Whilst in great measure we may want to assure ourselves that we have done well, there is still room for improvement in many areas of tourism,” he stated.To this end, Tull said the association had stepped up its marketing profile by placing ads in Trinidadian newspapers and had made “substantial inroads” in the Jamaica and St Lucia markets.