The owner of a British tour operator that normally sends large numbers of clients to the Caribbean is warning that cash-strapped hotels in the region may raise some of their rates as they struggle to return to profitability.
Paul Cleary of Caribtours told a Wednesday Caribbean Tourism Organization webinar that those Caribbean hotels that are now open are having to cope with low occupancy and the added costs that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, such as those brought on by enhanced cleaning measures.
“I think it’s a reality” that hotels are going to have to work to recover lost revenue, Cleary said.
But Cleary also warned that now “is not the time to be greedy,” given the fragile state of international tourism.
Cleary said the financial problems some Caribbean hotels are now dealing with have in some cases been compounded by several British tour operators not paying them owed money.
Cleary said his normally profitable 41-year-old company is looking at posting a large loss this year.
But Bob Thye of the Apple Leisure Group, which normally sends over 3 million Americans a year to Mexico and the Caribbean, predicted there will be “incredible deals going forward” in the Caribbean as hotels work to boost demand. “Very attractive” hotel offers could include on-property credits.
The fallout from coronavirus has been “nothing short of devastating for our business,” Thye said
But he added that he remains “optimistic and bullish” about the Caribbean’s tourism prospects.
“Travel is sort of the lifeblood of human existence,” said Thye, who expects coronavirus-related damage will only amount to a “very short-term blip” for the travel industry.
Expectations are that most Americans who will travel in the near future will want to do so relatively close to home and Thye noted that most of his compatriots live within a few hours of the Caribbean.
The Apple Leisure Group has worked to get clients who couldn’t travel as planned because of coronavirus to rebook rather than simply ask for refunds.
It will have a winter charter program but on a smaller scale than last winter.
Cleary in turn said the tourism industry has been through “the darkest time” and “we have to start looking ahead.”
He said he believes there is now pent-up demand for travel and Caribtours has seen increased interest in recent weeks.
One market seen as possibly performing better than most is the family one.
Webinar participants agreed that restored airlift is all-important for the recovery of Caribbean tourism.
Cleary also noted a lot of Caribbean hotels remain closed and added that more reopening will help attract visitors to the region.