High season looks promising

Tourist property owners are optimistic and positive about a busy tourist season.

Director of Sales at Sunshine Suites Nadia Hardy is optimistic about high season for the 132-room property.

‘We’re looking fairly positive,’ she said, but noted that Christmas could be a little better.

Business through November has been excellent. Over the Thanksgiving weekend the hotel was in the 70s percentage points for occupancy, but for the two weekends before that it had been in the high 80s and 90s. ‘We’ve had a fantastic November. There was lots of business going on on-island but also there was a lot of leisure pick ups with people travelling before the Christmas rush,’ she said.

In the run up to Christmas pre-bookings are doing all right before 25 December with the usual spike in bookings the week after.

January has nights in the 70 per cent and greater for occupancy, February also looks promising, with March a little slower but still a few months out yet.

Meanwhile, at Cobalt Coast in West Bay, which has 18 units, the week surrounding New Year’s Eve sees the hotel full. The Christmas period is a little slower, said owner Arie Barendrecht, with half the units so far committed for that period. Bookings are certainly looking up on last year, he added.

January and February are also looking to be ahead of where they were back at the beginning of this year.

‘If things go well that will mean about 65 per cent occupancy. For us that’s good,’ he said.

Mr. Barendrecht explained that his high season really starts the last week in February on into Spring Break and summer when families tend to travel together.

At the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman owner Peter Hillenbrand said his 12 ocean-view bungalows are typically booked out for the week of Christmas and New Year two years out. This is because the small resort has a very loyal following of customers. Next Christmas is nearly booked out already at the resort.

‘For my resort they are the two weeks of the year that I can dictate to guests when to arrive and depart.’

The first two weeks in January, which can often be slow, are looking to be excellent, while February is still looking soft. But he expects February will start to really fill up in the next month.

Melissa Ladley of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman said high season is looking to be very strong. ‘It’s kind of interesting this year because Easter is so early. Easter falls technically in first quarter, so our first quarter is looking very strong.’

Christmas is sold out, and during this Christmas they will start booking next Christmas.

January, February and particularly March are looking strong. ‘There’s always that Christmas lull after New Year’s when people tend not to travel as much, but overall it’s looking good.’

This year will be the resort’s second full high season, having opened in December 2005.

In the past year it has gotten major awards and this is a factor that Ms Ladley believes is playing a part in driving strong bookings for this high season. They include the AAA five Diamond, Conde Nast Traveler named it two in the Caribbean region in its reader’s choice awards and Zagat’s rated it as one of the Top 10 resorts in the world.

‘I mean these really influence the choices of people who tend to travel in high season because they want to go to the relatively new place, so that’s really driving our first season business. This is the first season these awards will really affect directly.’

The hotel is also getting a lot of corporate group business and is looking to be busier than last high season.

She believes the introduction of the Cayman Airways New York flights during this year have been and will be a tremendous help to tourism, but despite the tremendous difference this route has made there is a still a lot of demand for more airlift from other areas, such as from Washington, DC, she noted.

At the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort the week just after Christmas is nearly fully committed, above 90 per cent for occupancy, said Director of Sales and Marketing Carolina Voullieme.

‘December in general looks to be much better than last year,’ she said.

January is looking to be a good month for the hotel. There are 11 more percentage points for occupancy on the books for January compared with last year. The projected occupancy for January is 75 per cent, based on current bookings, although the two weeks just after 3 January look a little soft.

Next February is about five per cent behind pace on the previous one for bookings and is projected to be at 85 per cent occupancy.

‘We are very positive for 2008 and if we don’t have any storms we’ll be much better,’ said Ms Voullieme, in reference to the fact that Hurricane Dean caused the hotel to close its doors for a week in August.

At Lacovia Condominiums Office Administrator Sandra Parchment said 32 of 34 units are sold out from 20 December through to 7 January.

January, February and March are all looking to be busy with business looking to be a little better than the previous winter season, she said.

At Plantana Condominiums Manager Carlene Alexander said it looks like a very busy winter season for them.

‘We are going to be extremely busy from mid December,’ she said.

The 36 units in the short-term rental pool are sold out from 26 December to 4 January with the rest of January looking to be about 40 per cent, which is good for that time of year as it can be lax, said Ms Alexander.

February is sold out and March looks very strong.

With a 55 per cent repeat guest base guests are now booking for December 2008.

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