Mixed fortunes for bed and breakfast hosts
By Heppilena Ferguson
April 9, 2007
Some Bed and Breakfast (B&B) providers are smiling while others are disappointed because they invested in meeting the Local Organizing Committee's (LOC) standards to host visitors and they have seen no financial returns even though the cricket world cup matches here end today.
And while the LOC acknowledges that there are still many empty rooms, Chief Executive Officer Karan Singh attributed this to the low visitor rate to the Guyana leg of the super eights being hosted at the National Stadium at Providence.
However the LOC says it is still in the process of collecting figures as to exactly how many providers were able to receive bookings and guests. Once this is completed the body says it will assess whether it will consider acting as a mediator between those providers who did not get bookings and the financial institutions to work out some compromise on a repayment schedule.
At the same time, however, Singh hopes that those providers do not become "unduly disturbed" by the fact that they did not get bookings and LOC Chairman and Culture, Youth and Sport Minister Dr. Frank Anthony says the initiative was something new and so may still have room to "pick up" here in Guyana.
Stabroek News contacted a number of providers, some of whom were spoken to for a previous article and preparing for the influx of visitors.
George Blair, a Guyanese who spends most of his time overseas, had told Stabroek News in an earlier interview that as a result of his postings on the Guyana accommodations website designed by the LOC he received emails with indications of interest and so he expected guests.
Blair's guests did arrive and speaking with this newspaper on Wednesday, Blair was happy to report that he had two visitors: one from Holland and the other from Scotland. One of his guests leaves mid month and the other has already departed.
However Blair said the only other contact he had with the LOC was at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri where the B&B desk has been set up.
He said the experience has been very good. "So far it has been good and I encountered no problems," he said. He added that he had also not yet been contacted by the local body but reiterated that everything has been OK for him.
David Smith, one of the eligible providers told this newspaper that though he didn't receive bookings it really didn't bother him one way or the other.
"The situation is still the same, I haven't heard from the LOC since they came to check my place to see that I comply with their standards, but I didn't spend any extra money because I was waiting to see if I would get any indication of interest first," he said. Smith said he recently built his home and it was ready for anyone to live in and so after he heard the government sound the need for more rooms he decided that he would pitch in.
"So it's not a case that I was too expectant and spent too much, so I'm not disappointed," he said.
Floyd Benn, too, was not fortunate to receive any bookings but instead he is looking at the situation as a long-term investment and is hopeful that returns would come even though he didn't have immediate financial gains.
"Well I got no one and no one from the LOC made any contact with me ... I was prepared but I held out on purchasing certain other things because I was waiting to see what they would tell me," he said.
He said he too was a bit disappointed and empathized with his colleagues who made investments. He added that his expectations were high and that no one he knew was able to get bookings either.
He said he believed that if the Indian and Pakistani teams were still in the tournament more visitors might have come to Guyana.
However Benn is contemplating starting his own advertising campaign for his place as a long term goal to offer persons coming to Guyana a comfortable place to stay.
"But I was hoping that some of us would have at least gotten some money from this venture to offset mortgage payments. But I look at it as a long term investment and hope that returns would come even though I didn't have immediate financial returns. But my expectations weren't met", he said.
Peter Willems, another provider who was not able to get anyone to stay at his place has looked at the issue differently and prefers not to blame the LOC. He believes the mishaps which occurred in the first round, foremost the alleged strangulation of Pakistan cricket team coach Bob Woolmer who was staying at the Jamaican Pegasus Hotel, may have worked against Guyana receiving the expected amount of visitors.
"I think even if we had at least half the amount of expected visitors … we may have gotten business … but I still feel that the LOC should have pushed it more and told us to do our own marketing much earlier than they did… since I only learned about this through Stabroek News," he said. He believes too that if India and Pakistan were able to continue in the tournament more visitors might have come to Guyana.
"So I don't really believe that it was the fault of the LOC because the visitor expectation was well below what was expected and this was the case throughout the Caribbean," he said.
He cited costs as another factor which affected the influx of visitors.
"I found out that air ticket costs for flights to Guyana and Jamaica were exorbitant and so that may have caused some of the tourists to cut their expenses," he said.
However like the other eligible providers, Willems said he had not heard from the LOC but was not disappointed that he ended up with no bookings. He said he was sorry for those persons who expended large sums to spruce up their homes.
Patrick Hazelwood is one of the smiling B&B providers. He was able to attract five guests all of whom have already left.
Hazelwood received assistance from the LOC in soliciting guests but also did his own marketing.
"They assisted me and I was able to get five persons all of whom have left. It was a good experience for me and I am a person who is not new to entertaining and socializing so everything was streamlined and I am thankful for the experience," he told this newspaper.
The LOC has said that the B&B experience is a good one for Guyana and is totally new and could be given a chance to develop.
"Those who came forward have done well and this is not going to be the only event that Guyana will host and so we should see it as a new sector," LOC chairman Dr Anthony told the media on Thursday.
The minister said the initiative is new to Guyana and therefore teething problems are anticipated and noted that many islands have the programme and with tourism developing in Guyana it could play an important role.
Hundreds of Guyanese had thought of the B&B initiative as a good one after the government appealed for accommodation for the games. The expectation was that more than 30,000 persons would come to Guyana to view the games. Hundreds of householders signed up for the programme.
In addition to the low visitor numbers, over a dozen new hotels threw open their doors just before the games and this may have also prevented some of the B&B providers from having their share of the already 'small pie'.
The eligible bread and breakfast providers recently voiced their dissatisfaction with an LOC announcement that they should not wait on the LOC to do the marketing for them and that they too would have to do their own marketing. It had opened a website at www.guyanaaccomodations.org where hundreds of facilities were advertised for rent during the CWC super eights.