Slow period a bother

by Latoya Burnham

touristfilledbajanbeachOne of the island’s newest hotel plants, after investing more than US$3 million, says tourism leaders here need to do something to attract visitors in the very slow off period, if it is to remain a prime tourists destination.

Joerg Roterberg, Southern Regional Director of Operations for Elite Island Resorts, owners of The Club Barbados Resort and Spa, formerly Almond Beach Club in St. James said after taking over the property on August 3, they did substantial work to refurbish it.

Stating that “it was not in very good condition”, and that they were not in a position to close down the property, Roterberg told Barbados TODAY that instead they did the required work in phases.

“It would have been politically incorrect at that time to close another property in Barbados with the Village not being there and a few challenges. So we kept the property open and we did a lot of work in small groups which took us about three to four months. The moment we were where we wanted to be, the hotel was full and we had a very good winter.”

He said the company had invested about US $3million in the initial phase to upgrade the property and that would continue.

“We are very proud of our properties, so we were not able to do as much in the first phase simply because it got filled up quite nicely. This summer is phase two and we are going to go into the rooms, the bedrooms, bathrooms, furniture, our specialty restaurant and we are going to basically continue doing something. It will be an ongoing process.”

It was only now, the director said that things were starting to slow down, but unfortunately, the tourism cycle in Barbados was such that the slow period was very low.

This was the period, he noted, to which the island had to pay attention.

“It is a little like going from the Alps to the seaside because we had an extremely good high season. Very good, very impressive, we ran like 92 per cent, February, March the same thing.

“So we were very good the first six months of the year. Now I must say the reservations have fallen quite sharply and to a point where it is quite dramatic. We did not expect it to fall that sharply and it’s the only property in all of our collection that has fallen for two months.”

July and August, Roterberg said looked “very, very sad if not dry” and while they had expected a fall, they did not expect this degree of fall out.

“Sure as an adults-only property in a time when families travel, which is August, you expect it to go down 50 or 40 per cent but you don’t expect it to go 20 or 30 per cent. Christmas already is looking quite good – Christmas, January, February, March, that’s what I’m talking about.

“We go from a very successful high season to an extremely disappointing low season and that’s something that, I don’t believe us as a hotel, but Barbados as a tourism destination needs to reflect upon. We cannot allow ourselves to make money in one period and then lose it all in the other period of the year. It needs to be a more cushioned approach where July, August, September, October, has a more reasonable occupancy.”

Closing hotels was not the answer, he noted, as it would mean a loss of airlift as well, but suggested tourism properties needed reasonable occupancy in this period.

“We need to give the hotels, as well as restaurants and all the partners a reason to remain open so we can attract tourism and I think that is a goal the entire island needs to embrace,” he said to Barbados TODAY.

Despite this, Rotherberg did not rule out the possibility of another property in Barbados, though chances are it will not be the other Almond Beach Village one in the north.

“We were looking at it [Heywoods], as well as Casuarina but we decided at that time it was not a piece that would fit into our portfolio. I think the Heywoods property, the former Village, needs a lot of work. It is a very big investment.

“Being closed for a year does not do anything good for a hotel in this climate, so that is a huge investment. Right now we aren’t considering this hotel. Going forward we do not exclude having another hotel on the island, but at the moment we are quite happy.”

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