Resort occupancies escalate

Stay-over tourism has had a strong year so far, with many hotels reporting occupancy beyond their projections and the trend looking set to continue for the next few months until Hurricane season.

Condos are also reporting good business, coming up very close to the equivalent of 2004 figures pre-Ivan.

‘March was exceptionally strong, on the back of a strong January and February,’ said Director of Sales Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort Nadia Stradling.

The 305-room resort had an occupancy rate of 85 per cent last month. In fact the hotel’s average daily occupancy rate was higher than budgeted.

Ms Stradling went so far as to say that occupancy rates at the hotel are the best they have been for the past five to 10 years, something they put down to the resort’s recent $15 million refurbishment.

And the second quarter of the year is already looking rosy.

April is looking good, but with a small booking window trend it is more difficult to predict how May and June will sell, she said. However, the Cayman Islands Summer Splash promotion went into promotion at the end of March so there should soon be bookings coming in from this, she noted.

The end of April in particular is looking very strong, Ms Stradling added, which is interesting when one considers that this is traditionally the end of high season. These bookings are for leisure travellers, as corporate bookings tend to be last minute.

Guests are very pleased with the island, she reports. ‘They say it has well recovered from the hurricane and is looking as good as ever,’ she said.

Vice President and General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, Jean Cohen said the 365-room resort is beating all expectations with regard to occupancy.

March showed 84 per cent on top of a very busy January and February, while April, May and June are looking very strong. April looks like having a 76 per cent occupancy rate. Easter will be busy with lots of transient travel with both corporate and leisure travellers.

For July and August they are hoping for some transient travellers into a traditionally quiet September.

These luxury market guests are very pleased with the variety of restaurants here and love Stingray City and the clarity of the water, said Ms Cohen. Guests also feel safe here.

Another excellent plus for the celebrity/famous guests who stay at the new resort is that they are not bothered by people. ‘It’s a nice feeling for them not to be chased down by photographers,’ Ms Cohen asserted.

The 53 Hyatt Beach Suites have experienced what Acting General Manager Diego Concha refers to as a ‘phenomenal’ first quarter, finishing in March with a 93 to 94 per cent occupancy rate.

April looks similar, as though it will be in the 90s, he asserts.

Looking further into the second quarter, Mr. Concha said he thinks the beach suites can sustain a strong occupancy to June but it becomes difficult to predict what may happen in hurricane season.

The 343-room Westin Casuarina Resort reports a great first quarter, with an average occupancy of 81.5 per cent for the three months and March’s as high as 93.5 per cent.

The many marketing efforts have paid off, according to management. Also, groups that cancelled in 2005 because they didn’t think the island was ready following Hurricane Ivan, rebooked and have recently returned. Feedback from guests has been very positive.

Management also asserts that the Department of Tourism’s TV advertising in conjunction with the Summer Splash promotion really help to bring tourists here.

Looking forward, this month looks as though it could average 86 per cent occupancy, with Easter very busy at the Westin. May is questionable and should be above 50 per cent, while the end of June is already very busy with corporate groups.

Effie Mitchell, General Manager of Casa Caribe Condominiums said that they are quite busy until the middle of May with occupancy averaging in the high 70s. This is from the rental of 16 out of 24 condos.

They are down somewhat on what would have been considered ‘normal’ pre-Ivan, but are getting back on track, she said.

Meanwhile at Lacovia’s 34 rental Condominiums February and March have been extremely busy, with March in the 80s for occupancy. This came on the back of a bad January.

April is looking to be as good as March and May, and June and July are looking to be busier than usual this year. August is also looking a good deal better than the past couple of years.

General Manager Plantana Condominiums Marita Ebanks reports a good first quarter, with occupancy for March in the 80s and rates as good as the equivalent months in 2004. Currently there are about 36 condominiums in the rental pool.

April is also looking good – in the 70s – and May will slow down a bit to the low 70s.

Plantana’s fiscal year ends in June and Ms Ebanks reports that business has not been far off that of 2004, something, she agrees, is very good news.

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