Sister Islands tourism steady

Tourist properties on the Sister Islands are generally experiencing a fairly good year, despite the downturn in business during the current slow season.

At the Brac Reef Beach Resort where there are 40 hotel rooms, Manager Trudy Viers said that the first six months of the year have been record months for the resort, but July slowed down just this week.

Summer occupancy levels are very close, but not quite up to last year, which was a good year for the resort.

‘We’re always striving for 90 to 100 per cent and we’re not there, but at the same time we’re not displeased,’ she commented.

August is not bad, while September looks to be very slow, in tradition with that month being the slowest period of low season.

While the first six months have been a banner year for the hotel, July, August and September are always a challenge, said Ms Viers.

A lot depends on the weather, and people are booking 30 to 60 days out, whereas some years ago they would book six months to a year in advance.

Another factor influencing people’s decision with regard to travel is price points and last minute specials in which the internet plays a large part, said Ms Viers.

All in all she said the resort needs to keep working to get guests to the Sister Islands.

Currently the hotel is running a residents’ special for CI$399 for two people inclusive of airfare, accommodation for two nights and dinner for two.

General Manager of Little Cayman Beach Resort Nicholas Wilson said that as far as the 40-room hotel goes, they are doing really well this year.

Both occupancy and revenue are up over last year, with the hotel back to levels seen in 2002-03.

The first quarter of the year was up on last year’s occupancy. While the months of April and May were on a par with last year, June is up and they are expecting July to be up also.

Mr. Wilson said they are quite pleased with the hotel’s level of business, although not thrilled, as they can always do better.

However, there is an element of concern regarding the condominium sector, he added. The resort manages Conch Club Condominiums, 18 of which are in the short term rental pool, LCBR Operations Manager Mark LeBlanc said that business is not as good as they hoped, but still a little up on last year, which had been slow.

Marcia Ritch, Manager of both Carib Sands Beach Resort and Brac Caribbean Beach Village on Cayman Brac said that since May of last year business at the condos has been picking up.

However summer business for this year does not look to be as good as last year.

At Carib Sands Beach Resort where there are 19 units in the short term rental pool, the year so far has seen occupancy at about 45 to 50 per cent, while at Brac Caribbean Beach Village, where up to now there have been five condos available as short term rentals, the first quarter of the year showed occupancy in the range of 50 to 60 per cent, while April, May and June went down to about 30 per cent.

Ms Ritch noted that it is local business (visitors from Grand Cayman) that seems to be keeping the condos afloat, with weekends in particular seeing the condos fully booked.

Since Hurricane Ivan, she said they have lost about 40 per cent of their overseas business and usually the reason given is that people can get cheaper flights somewhere else.

They do still, however, get some guests from overseas.

At Pirates Point on Little Cayman, a 10-room all-inclusive resort, owner Gladys Howard said she believes business is up on last year, but they are always close to 100 per cent occupancy anyway.

The summer is going very well, she said. The resort will close for the two slowest months of September and October (re-opening 27 October). They have offered to move those wishing to book for those two months into August when they have a special promotional package (pay for one and get the second for half price, with a week’s stay).

At the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman summer business at the 12 beach bungalows is better than last year.

In fact, right up to now occupancy for the year so far has been very high.

The first six months of the year were ‘exceptional’ said General Manager Cate Ferreira. She noted that, on average, occupancy rates have been around 93 per cent. The resort had even raised its rates for this year and that did not affect business, she commented.

Although July has started to slow down business is still better than usual for this time of year, Ms Ferreira said.

July and August look to be at about 70 per cent occupancy, she said.

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