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Load shedding hurting tourism

While Bahamians continue to endure long hours of load shedding across New Providence, visitors staying in some of the country’s major luxury resorts on the island are not faring any better, Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) President Carlton Russell said yesterday.

Russell said he is particularly worried that many guests may decide to stay away from the country.

“When you go on vacation, you don’t go on vacation expecting to be disrupted, to have a power disruption,” Russell said.

“I mean I’ve heard guests say, ‘You know what? We’re back to Third World.’

“We need to find a resolution to this vexing issue.”

He was referring to the now months-long load shedding exercise being conducted on New Providence by Bahamas Power and Light (BPL). BPL officials have said that the power company cannot meet the current demand for electricity on New Providence.

“One of the things that we pride ourselves on is being able to attract multiple generations [of families],” Russell said.

“And how do multiple generations grow from a tourism standpoint? Normally you would start in your 20s and you’d come to a destination and you’d bring your kids and now you have two generations. Then you have your grandkids.”

He added, “With that being said, the vacationers today will remember this incident when they vacation again, when they think about The Bahamas.”

Russell said the hotels are in desperate need of relief.

Officials at BPL have gone silent in recent weeks. It is unclear when load shedding will end or why rental generation units, which cost the government $2 million per month, are not assisting with electricity demand.

Russell said, “I think what is more chaotic is that we don’t have a resolution in sight.

“We do hear maybe that in November, December there will be some relief or in two years with LNG, but this is a vexing issue for our industry.”

Dozens of tourists, who would’ve visited New Providence recently, posted reviews on travel websites highlighting their experiences.

One person, who would’ve visited from the United Sates in June 2019, posted, “The electricity went out in our last two days so the rooms were uncomfortably hot and hard to sleep in.”

A visitor from San Francisco complained about the “power going on and off”.

Another reviewer, who visited in May 2019, wrote, “Rooms became very hot and uncomfortable when power goes off, which appears to be too often at this time.”

Russell said he has seen many reviews where visitors have complained about the frequency of the outages.

He noted that BPL has asked several hotels, including Atlantis and Baha Mar, to use their generators.

“Many of our members have been asked to come off the grid,” Russell said.

“Every time we come off of the grid it poses disruption to our customers and I think that’s the most important point that we need to make.”

He noted that the outages have damaged equipment at some of the hotels.

In some cases, he said, hotel employees would have to physically restart their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units as well as their elevators.

“From a guest perspective, you could imagine being in an elevator and the light turns off for 10 or 20 seconds in the dark,” he said.

“That’s scary and these are the kind of experiences that our guests are going through.”

The outages are “eating into the bottom lines” for some hotels, according to Russell.

“The amounts that we pay, it increases our guest inconvenience expense line,” he said.

“Anytime that a guest complains, we have to compensate them for that inconvenience. So, we have the increase in guest inconvenience [and] we do have the disruption in the customer’s experience. You can imagine our employees and their morale dealing with this vexing issue.”

Russell, who also serves as vice president of hotel operations for the Cove and the Reef, said Atlantis has seen a 50 percent increase in its guest inconvenience expenses.

“We need relief and we need relief today,” he said.

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