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2003-03-05 16:48:53

Hoteliers Brace For War

"Quite frankly we don't have any strategy other than to go home every night and pray," said one hotel manager.

Major hotels in New Providence are bracing for a possible fallout in tourism activity in the event of a U.S.-led war with Iraq. Some hotel executives are expressing their concerns about a likely slowdown in the number of tourists coming to the Bahamas.

Public Relations Manager at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort Ed Fields said the hotel would have to re-route its marketing strategy in the event of a war.

"Obviously, if there's a war there would be some sort of decline in business. If it's a shortened conflict, then obviously we would have to take whatever marketing efforts we would need to do in order to bring the levels back up, similar to that which we engaged in after September 11," he said.

"If it's a protracted war, I think it's difficult for us to be able to tell what the results would be and we would have to then make whatever adjustments we need to make as far as marketing is concerned at that particular time."

Mr Fields said Bahamians need to continue to be warm and friendly and give good service to tourists, during this time when they are not feeling safe about travelling to other destinations.

He also said he thinks it is "regrettable" that an advisory had to be made to spring breakers during this time. That advisory was issued by the U.S. State Department.

"I don't think anyone in the tourism industry would like to see that type of advisory put in place," Mr. Fields said. "But to date we have not seen any negative impact with regard to visitor arrivals or occupancy levels."

There are others in the hotel sector who have for a while been concerned about the present economic climate and the threat of war.

Roberts Sands, general manager of the Wyndham Nassau Resort, told the Bahama Journal that the Wyndham's biggest wish is that war is avoided at all costs.

"There is no question that if there is a war, that there [would] be some fallout. But it's a reality that we will have to deal with," Mr. Sands said.

Mr Sands also said that he feels no anxiety over the American Embassy's recently released fact sheet to spring breakers, warning them of increasing criminal activity, illegal drug peddling and violence in the Bahamas.

He said each hotel provides newsletters to those students when they check in to the hotel, cautioning them of such issues.

Meanwhile, Michael Hooper, general manager of the British Colonial Hilton said he too is hoping that there is no war.

"However if there is, then we will have to make those adjustments to our business that we need to," Mr. Hooper said. "And that can range from us deciding how many people we're going to have working to how our rates are affected."

"We'll have to wait and see how things go, but we're hoping for the best."

General Manager of the Holiday Inn Junkanoo Beach Hotel Richard Hall said it would be futile to waste money on advertising if people are feeling "skittish" about travelling.

"Quite frankly we don't have any strategy other than to go home every night and pray," Mr. Hall said. "We really don't think that there'll be too much of an impact looking at the current booking trends.

"I think this side of the hemisphere will have less of an impact than Europe and Asia and other areas. We're still guardedly optimistic that war or not, we should come out relatively unscathed.

Mr Hall said he doubts the U.S. Embassy's advisory would have any effect on the amount of spring breakers flocking to the Bahamas.

He said the advisory was released relatively late and he said whatever contracted bookings the hotel was expecting for this year, would have been made months ago.

"So we're really not concerned about that advisory," he said. "Plus, the Caribbean islands have been prone to advisories in the past and they really have not had too much of an impact on business."

By Rogan M. Smith, The Bahama Journal

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