Major resorts in Exuma are expecting a full house this weekend for the annual regatta and hoping the event will further market the destination to the world.
Jeremy Mutton, general manager at Sandals Emerald Bay, said the property is riding a wave of high occupancy that started back in January. Reporting occupancy consistently in the 90 percent range and above, he said aggressive marketing campaigns by the company last year are now starting to pay off.
"It really seems to be producing dividends," he told Guardian Business.
"We have had some strong months and benefited from some large groups. Meanwhile, the Exuma Regatta will be very busy and Sandals is one of the main sponsors. We are actively involved and provide a complementary shuttle all weekend."
Mutton said the high occupancy levels, based on bookings and forecasts, should take the property well into May.
The Exuma Regatta, however, provides a particular boost and allows the company to participate in the community. The Sandals executive said participating in the event would enhance the overall vacation experience.
"Sandals is not just Exuma," he added. "The history in Exuma and the culture is paramount to the guest experience. The guests really enjoy getting out of the resort as well."
A little further down the beach, another luxury resort is also poised for a busy weekend.
Peter Nicholson, the leading investor in the community, said his villas are completely full for the weekend. He also reported full occupancy earlier in April.
Grand Isle is currently undergoing a resurgence after Nicholson, a Canadian businessman, purchased 31 luxury villas and pulled the troubled development out of receivership.
"The majority of my guests are from Nassau, and a few are from North America and Europe. The regatta is a wonderfully busy time of the year where locals and tourists all enjoy themselves," he said. "I think it's very important for the Exuma economy. My anecdotal evidence is it feels as busy as Christmas season or March break."
Mutton told Guardian Business that marketing and events such as the Exuma Regatta are part of a "continuous process" of making sure tourists understand there is more to The Bahamas than New Providence and Paradise Island. According to him the $80 million resort is on track to fulfill the bold prediction made by Adam Stewart, the CEO of Sandals, back in December. Stewart told Guardian Business that the resort will be profitable by 2014.
"This time last year, It would have been full. Last year, at this time, we had less rooms. We had 183 rooms, and now we have 245 with the additions back in the summer. It was almost a third increase. We are averaging 80 percent occupancy this year, but that's based on a significantly higher number of rooms."
To meet the demand, Mutton said the resort recently hired 25 additional staff during a recruitment drive in Nassau, bringing the total staff complement up to an incredible 600 people. Being on a small island, he admitted that it is not always easy finding quality staff.
Sandals has also committed to taking on 20 individuals from the local high school once they graduate this year, he revealed. The young Bahamians will be taken on as interns over a one-year period, after which they will be offered full-time jobs.
"What you find, particularly in the more specialized jobs, is it's very difficult to get the quality and experience. We put them in those areas, and cultivate the home-grown talent," Mutton explained.
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