BHA Talks Improving Efficiencies
The focus for this AGM was all about revenue management, and how to increase the annual earnings of all hotel owners - an an era when services like Airb'nb are cutting into their overnight market.
So, to help them be more efficient, their executives invited some of the top performing tourism experts from around the world, to offer some of their tried and tested advice.
7News stopped by the Biltmore today were we spoke with the Association's President, who told us that the local tourism industry is now adapting the use of technology to be more cost efficient:
Ted Tejeda - President, Belize Hotel Association
"Building in Belize City, and San Pedro is very expensive. In Belize City, it would cost you around $100,00 to complete a room. So, if you have an amount of rooms, and you're not building this year, you want to increase your revenue every year, at least by the inflation rate of 3.5%. So, with the same amount of rooms that you have, we brought some experts to tell you how can you increase your revenue, without having to build. One of the things that we need to do is actually study the pacing. What is the pacing? You have to look at the historic information. What are the events that are coming to Belize City, or what is coming to San Pedro, or example Costa Maya coming into San Pedro. Historically, you know that your rooms will sell out 1 year in advance. So, if you know those rooms will sell out because of the event coming up, you need to increase your rates. Because, even if you increase your rates, you will still end up selling those rooms. So, those are some of the tactics we have, the software that these people have that predicts and tells you, â€˜People are shopping. Your inventory is selling very fast, you need to crank up your weight by 5 - 10%. So, it's using software to predict what's coming tomorrow, so that you can take advantage."
"So you guys are now incorporating technology into the way the hotel business is running."
"That is correct, as this technology was actually invented by the airlines. Presently, a lot of our members - because 50% of our hotels are very small in the country of Belize. They do not have the revenue to invest in marketing. So, what technology does - they are practically using actual physical human being, to shop online, and make these graphs, which takes hours and days, when you have technology that might cost you a fraction of what that salary is, and will help you make better decisions."
Tourism Thinkers Dig Deep For Crime Solution
We also took the opportunity to ask the Hotel Association about a joint press release that they and the Belize Tourism Industry Association sent out today, urging the government to take specific actions to reduce crime.
The situation has become a huge and costly issue for the tourism industry over the last 2 weeks after the US Doctor, Gary Swank, and his well-known, island tour guide, Mario Graniel, were both murdered while they were out on a fly fishing tour.
All that negative publicity in the international press caused visitors who had tours booked for later in the year to start mass cancelations of their trips to Belize.
Both the National Security Council, chaired by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and the police department have outlined steps they intended to take in the hopes of decreasing crime and violence on San Pedro.
Well, the Belize Hotel Association and the Belize Tourism Industry Association sent out a joint statement urging the Government and the law enforcement authorities to take additional measures.
In their press release, they say, quote, "1. Take immediate steps to increase the size, effectiveness and professionalism of policing at all major tourism destinations nationwide; 2. Focus more closely on the eradication of the international drug trade which lies at the heart of Belize's crime problem. Devote significantly increased resources to improve the administration of justice at the level of police prosecution, Director of Public Prosecutions, Magistracy and Supreme Court; and 4. Initiate an ongoing media campaign to urge citizens to partner with law enforcement with the aim of making criminal behavior unwelcome and unacceptable to the larger Belizean society." End quote.
That's a tall order, but the President of the Hotel Association told us that if the authorities would wish, they and the BTIA are willing partners who want to help:
Ted Tejeda - President, Belize Hotel Association
"I was looking at the statistics from the statistics department. The tourism sector for January, February, and March contributed over 44 million dollars to the economy of Belize. It is a significant amount of money. We also employ, just in the hotel industry, about 10,000 employees daily. That's not including the tour guides, the shops, and everything that we buy. So, if we were to look at the macro picture, it's a huge amount of employees that employ every day. We depend on tourism. So, it is important that the Government do immediate steps to try to mitigate the problem we have with the crime, so that we do not damage our image internationally. It just takes one incident for a country like ours, that is very small, in order to be viral. And it takes millions of dollars to create what we have created. Wherever you go - last 2 weeks, I was in London, and I had 80 who stopped at my booth. And what was the surprising thing is that the 80 people who stopped at my booth, did not tell where is Belize. They said, Belize is my bucket list. We have changed the perception. We have invested a lot of money to do so, and we need to continue in that marketing campaign, and try to mitigate the crime that's happening."
"We are ready to partner with the Government. The industry - we need technology. Go back to technology again. The Belize Tourism Board has now committed to buy 10 cameras, 10 high definition cameras for San Pedro. We're going to place [them] in strategic areas, in order to defer these criminals that are playing in those areas. We're asking the industry, the hoteliers, to invest in the same cameras, or similar cameras, and place them on the street sides, on the beach sides, so that we can start covering bigger areas. Our job, the Belize Hotel Association, the BTIA, is marketing. Our job is to put heads in beds, to put people to sleep in our beds. We are not professionals in the security aspect. We are willing to partner with them, but they are the professionals in that area. We want them to work. We are willing to work with them."
We also asked the Hotel Association's president about its latest information on those cancelation of pre-booked tours, and if the industry should prepare for a financial hit at the end of the year. He gave us an update:
"I got concrete evidence today from the biggest wholesaler for the country of Belize that when that incident happened, the cancellations spike to 26% that week. The normal for the country of Belize is 14%, but people have realized that we, Belizeans, we love tourists. We love our industry, and it's not our people. There are a couple of those individuals doing the harm. And as of today, that company can secure that it has levelled off to 9%. It has normalized."
The BHA president told us that the association looked after the accommodations for Dr. Gary Swank's family while they finalized all arrangements that comes with the passing of a loved-one.