Hotels across the country are reporting millions of dollars in losses due to cancellations from tourists as Covid infections continue to rage worldwide.
Industry officials said yesterday that many resorts were suffering a “trend” of cancellations which affected December occupancy, and now January and February bookings too.
The Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) predicts this will continue until Covid-19 cases are controlled in the key source markets of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
ABHTA Executive Chairman Vernon Jeffers told Observer the body was currently carrying out a survey to solidify numbers, but warned of a bleak outlook so far based on feedback from member hotels.
“Just one hotel alone is already showing over US$2 million worth of cancellations out of the US for December, January and February, plus US$1 million for those coming from the UK,” he explained.
Jeffers warned that the situation would be compounded by Air Canada’s announcement on Wednesday that it was suspending flights to Antigua and several other Caribbean destinations from January 24 to April 30 2022.
“We continue to see a negative impact because of the rise in numbers of people being affected with the Omicron variant,” he said.
“It’s an ongoing thing and we are getting daily feedback from members with concerns they are having. A lot of airlines are being impacted because flight crew are coming down ill so they are having to shift and cancel flights right across the US.”
A statement from the ABHTA released yesterday did allude to a “glimmer of hope” with potential visitors “opting to re-book for future dates”.
“Re-bookings is a positive sign … in this current environment, as it could translate to a strong performance in the summer months.
“Should we, however, continue to see the pace of cancellations, the performance in our traditional high season months, now through to April, will be negatively impacted,” it said.
Jeffers continued, “We will continue to keep an eye on the performance of our members, understanding very well that we are a long way from full recovery.
“The volatility of this period is all too evident as we continue to fluctuate between uncertainty and optimism. Should cancellations continue at this pace, we will see the effects trickling down to employees in the sector where reduced work weeks and rotations will have to be employed.
“This is a fear we do not want to see realised.”
The ABHTA is appealing to hospitality partners to focus on safety protocols to help reduce spiraling local infection rates. The twin island nation’s latest dashboard revealed there to be almost 500 active virus cases.
On Wednesday, Air Canada confirmed it would be pulling flights to 15 “sun destinations” across the region for the next three months.
Jeffers said the impact on Antigua and Barbuda could not yet be fully calculated.
“Once all the bookings are cleared from their system, we will see some properties experiencing a drastic dip in projections.
“The ABHTA will very soon be monitoring these results and present its projections for travel this first quarter,” he added.
An Air Canada spokeswoman told Observer, “As we have since the start of the pandemic, Air Canada continues to evaluate and adjust its route network as required in response to the trajectory of the pandemic, government-imposed travel restrictions and quarantines, regulatory requirements, and the impact of these factors on overall demand.”
She said affected destinations included those “where the resurgence of Covid and new government regulations have reduced demand, requiring us to revise our winter sun schedule”.
A December 17 travel advisory issued by the Canadian government advised its citizens against non-essential travel.