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Resorts boost marketing amid promising December

Resorts and hoteliers are pumping more cash into marketing, advertising and promotions in 2012 in an effort to keep the forward momentum going.

“There is no letting up on the promotions in terms of investment,” said David Johnson, the director general at the Ministry of Tourism. “A number of stakeholders are boosting their marketing resources to stimulate sales as much as possible. With the late booking environment we’re in, you can’t afford to go dark. You have to remind people constantly of what you have.”

In fact, the Ministry of Tourism and its various promotional boards have just approved the popular companion fly free program. Johnson told Guardian Business it continues to play a crucial role in attracting arrivals, and converted into dollars and cents, he said it translates into $250 in savings for those who stay three nights or less, and $400 for tourists traveling for four nights or more.

“So far it has worked. We are assured to have a strong winter. Our business has trended upwards since December,” he added.

According to preliminary statistics from The Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, December 2011 saw an occupancy rate of 58.3 percent compared to 55 percent the previous year.

Room nights sold rose by 5.1 percent and hotel room revenue went up 6.5 percent year-on-year.

Stuart Bowe, the president of the BHA, said it’s essential for hotels to increase revenue, as operating costs rise and resorts are forced to make large capital expenditures to remain competitive.

He echoed Johnson’s sentiments that more focus on marketing and joint promotional and product improvement efforts have led to improved numbers in December 2011 and so far into this year.

“We are seeing the value of our strong marketing and promotional initiatives which are resonating well in the marketplace,” he added. “These have been underway for two years and each year we have seen incremental progress. We are also pleased to see some of the highest customer satisfaction levels reported in years, with visitors citing overall improvements in the experience and appearance of our islands.”

Bowe also noted the length of stay continues to rise for arrivals into Nassau, partly attributed to the new packages on offer but also the nature of the tourist.

Arrivals from Latin America, for example, comprise a different breed that tends to splash out for longer holidays.

In terms of 2011 as a whole, occupancy rate came in at 63.9 percent compared to 62.6 percent the previous year. Room nights sold improved 1.3 percent and room revenue spiked 3.1 percent.

Preliminary air arrivals to Nassau to the end of October last year were down 3.3 percent.

Bowe and other tourism leaders are predicting that 2012 could be the year that arrivals and occupancy levels return to pre-recession levels.

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