Friday, 11 May 2012 02:31
By Alex Holder
Antigua St John's - General Manager of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association (AHTA) Neil Forrester has said recent media reports have failed to consider that hotel occupancy and rates are two very different terms and issues.
Caribarena.com contacted Forrester for clarity on the recently released numbers that caused such excitement in the Tourism ministry and certain sections of the local press.
In his report on the country’s hotel occupancy rate for April 2012, Forrester said the month had produced the best occupancy figures since 2008, with an average of 63.8 percent.
He said while Antigua is still a long way from the 2007/2008 figures of around 70 percent, there are still “some signs of recovery” with several hotels showing good occupancy, while others are still struggling to find their clientele.
The year to date occupancy rate stands at 66.9 percent, compared to 69.3 percent last year. But this is mainly due to the exceptional month of March last year with the military exercise, Forrester said.
One publication's headline titled “Room Rates Climb,” had suggested that the cost of the rooms was synonymous with the considerably high occupancy number, a notion the Forrester said was inaccurate.
“You can fill all your rooms if you sell them at $1, but you still need to find that balance," he said. "To say the occupancy went up could also mean offers were put out there and people took it. All I can say is that we sold so many out of what was available. It is only part of the jigsaw puzzle."
Speaking further about how the occupancy numbers were interpreted, the GM said, “I just send out bare figures.
Occupancy numbers have little bearing on financial gain.”
He said the part of the picture that is always missing in cases like these is the financial piece. To establish his point, Forrester noted that while one person can come to Antigua and stay in a hotel for a month, it would equate to 30 people staying in the same hotel for one night.
And while the health of the industry could be examined through the arrival figures at the airport, most of these people disappear in villas, family homes, and elsewhere and are difficult to keep an accurate track of, Forrester said.
“All I can say is that hotel occupancy was higher than last year," he said. "And all I can do is speculate that there is some glimmer of recovery. April is a strange month, because it is when the season changes from winter to summer.”
Caribarena.com had also sought clarification from Forrester about Antigua’s perceived inefficiency in having current and relevant occupancy information available on the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s website (CTO). Forrester explained that the CTO never had Antigua’s occupancy data, but rather had the arrival figures. The occupancy figures are collated by the AHTA, he said, not the ministry.
“Barbados is always very efficient in getting their arrival numbers," he said. "But as I said, you need all parts of the jigsaw to see the complete picture, and you will always be missing the financial piece, which is also the most important.”
Attempts to reach Minister of Tourism John Maginley for a comment were unsuccessful.