Expedia executive urges cheaper airlift
A leading Internet travel website says “it has not been an easy year for The Bahamas”, revealing that the high cost of airlift played a pivotal role in lackluster booking numbers.
Marco Tagliatti, vice president of lodging supply for Latin America and the Caribbean for Expedia, said more must be done to address the price of tickets to encourage higher numbers.
“It has not been an easy year for The Bahamas,” he told Guardian Business.
“We have seen some slow down. The reasons have been many. There was the hurricane, but the increased ticket prices to The Bahamas definitely played a role. This has affected all Caribbean destinations, and especially The Bahamas.”
However, Tagliatti identified other factors to explain the dip in numbers at Expedia.
Increased competition from additional hotels and rooms in the market “has hurt the supply”, he added.
He pointed out that other Caribbean destinations, such as the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, have fared better in 2011. According to recent growth statistics from Expedia, revenue for Jamaica is up 8 percent compared to last year, while average daily rates are up 12 percent.
Expedia, which notched more than 1.2 million Caribbean travellers on their website in the past year, has observed that the most important factor for tourists coming to the region is the price of airlift.
“The main variable I can see if the growth of ticket price,” Tagliatti said. “You need to have the airlift and the airlift at the right prices.”
Success in keeping prices down is one of the main reasons jamaican and Dominican Republic have been successful, he added.
That said, the Expedia executive did point to some light at the end of the tunnel.
Recent data has sent The Bahamas “back to positive”. Whereas the second and third quarters were quite week, bookings in the run up to the end og the year are expected to provide a much-needed surge.
The report from Expedia is consistent with recent forecasts coming out of Atlantis, with near full bookings being reported for Thanksgiving weekend alone.
Tagliatti said strong bookings from Latin America have proven to be a considerable boom for The Bahamas tourism industry.
In fact, from Expedia’s perspective, in a matter of months “The Bahamas moved from zero percent from this area to 7 percent of total market”.
“Expedia has invested in this area through our websites and those websites are growing,” he told Guardian Business. What is interesting is to see growth all over the Latin American region.”
Tagliatti said direct flights to other major metropolitan centers in South America, such as in Brazil, could have “huge benefits” for tourism.