Local discounts at hotels draw mixed reactions
THE hospitality industry is grappling with the intricate balance of attracting both tourists and locals, and the debate on discounted rates for local residents at hotels has taken centre stage.
The views among travel agents are varied, with some advocating for increased support for locals while others acknowledge the progress made post-COVID-19.
“What are we having here for locals?” questioned a perplexed Sherice Dockary, the owner of Docquire’s Travel & Tours.
She emphasised the challenges faced by local travel agents who are unable to sell properties due to what she described as “tremendously ridiculous” rates. Despite acknowledging that rates may not be the same as those for tourists, she stressed the need for more affordable options, especially during the Christmas season.
“Things should be different for locals,” Dockary asserted, pointing out the challenges faced by local vacation business interests as individuals shy away from hotel stays due to exorbitant rates.
She highlighted the impact on local pockets, citing rates exceeding US$250 per person per night which she deemed “hefty”.
“In the Christmas season, after working for the entire year, people want to get away with their family and we are seeing that the rates, especially for locals, are a slap in the face,” stated Dockery, adding that even hotels which were not so much of a luxury are now carrying high rates.
But despite the festive season being a time when many are looking to enjoy themselves and escape the responsibilities of cooking, it’s also one of the busiest and most expensive periods for hoteliers.
“I know it’s Christmas but even like a US$200 or US$198, something of that sort per person would be more feasible than persons paying US$230, sometimes US$300 per person. It’s quite a slap,” she expressed to the Jamaica Observer.
While some hotels provide discounted rates, not all follow suit. Dockary acknowledges that these rates remain elevated compared to pre-COVID-19 standards, however, the rates were significantly lower during COVID-19, enabling local agents to sell more. But they now face challenges as Jamaicans hope for comparable rates. Despite local clients expressing concerns about prices a substantial portion of Docquire Travel and Tours’ clientele remains local.
Karell Wynter, director of Expressionz Travel, has a different view. She believes the industry has come a significant way where rates for locals are concerned.
“They are doing it; I wouldn’t want to say enough but it’s much better than where it was – and they are taking more steps to incorporate locals,” she told the Sunday Finance. “I think COVID has taught hoteliers a lot of lessons, and they would have reimagined their strategy and recognised that the local market plays a part because, had it not been for the local market, a lot of people probably would not have made it through.”
Wynter acknowledged that there’s always room for improvement, and that during COVID-19 the effort among hoteliers was evidently more intensified but now some of the hotel rates are very high.
In the meantime, president of Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, Nicola Madden Greig recommends contacting the hotels directly for their local rates but also sought to explain that discounted rates are displayed by various hotels based on the IP address.
“Online travel agencies allow you to set rates for different source markets. When you search for that rate in Jamaica, it would be a domestic rate offered; they can do that,” she said.
According to Madden-Greig, in some cases people believe they are not receiving discounted rates when, in reality, they are not comparing the rates with those in other countries. As the debate continues it’s evident that finding the right balance between offering affordable rates for locals and maintaining profitability during peak seasons remains a challenge for the hospitality industry.