With this April’s average of 63.8% only 2011, with an average of 60.1% occupancy came close. In April 2008, the pre-recession era, occupancy rates stood at an over average of 72.4%, according to a release from the AHTA, Antigua Hotels & Tourist Association.
“For the hoteliers to say that they are seeing better occupancy in April compared the other years is certainly good news,” Tourism Minister John Maginley told OBSERVER Media.
The recession, which started in the United States and spread to Europe and other parts of the world, dealt a major blow to the island’s vital tourism industry when travelers cut back on vacations.
The minister said while those years have been challenging “we are seeing the growth coming back slowly.”
He added, “summer months have always been a challenge but with April showing up, we hope we can carry it on through the rest of the year.”
Maginley attributes the gain to the island’s presence on major US TV networks and hard work by local and foreign – based tourism partners.
“Certainly our move towards the digital world is proving good, the results are coming now and we hope that will continue,” he said.
The performance in April follows improved performance by 5.5% percent overall in the tourism industry last year. Cruise arrivals were also up in 2011 as well as yachting numbers increasing by 76%, according to Maginley.
He said the good news for April is no need to be complacent, anticipating the traditionally slow summer months and the US elections.
“We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves because we are now into May and its still a long time to go. We have the US elections coming up and generally Americans don’t travel as much during an election year,” Maginley added.
Chief Executive AHTA, Neil Forrester also welcomed the occupancy numbers for April but questioned why some properties were struggling to find clientele.
In a release Forrester noted, “The problem lies in the product offered by the properties firstly; and then with regard to the lower end, small independent boutique properties, it has also to do with marketing, and the procurement and management of the right distribution channels.”
The AHTA said out of a sample of 29 hotels 36% of rooms available are attributed to Elite Grouping and Sandals Brand with the said properties accounting for 51 % of the rooms occupied.