More big beautiful hotels
Passports to plenty- but what about the whole tourism product, some experts ask
To some in hospitality it's a ticket to a feast, but not Athie Martin.
To the perennial government critic, there is something more sinister to the sudden love affair with new hotels, mostly to be funded by the sale of passports.
"This is about creating space for the expansion of the passport-selling programme and it's not about tourism," Martin told The Sun.
Government recently signed agreements with three real estate developers to construct hotels financed through the passport sales programme, and there is the problem-plagued Moroccan hotel, along with a previous revelation by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of a Marriott property.
Martin said the lack of planning, including any effort to improve the infrastructure was due to a lack of interest in tourism.
"This is about abandoning tourism, this is not tourism. If you cannot get people now to fill what you have, clearly it is not your intention to fill those new rooms. The infrastructure requires improving . . . and there is the question of air access. So it [filling the hotel rooms] can't be what you are setting out to do because the bits and pieces you need in preparation for that are not there. It can only be a clear strategy of enriching a few through the Citizenship by Investment programme under the guise of tourism," Martin insisted.
However, there are others who take a different position, even if they have questions.
One hotelier, who sought anonymity because he did not was to appear disruptive, said there were too many hotel rooms here that are below standard.
"If you have a good product and you can get people here, you will do well. If you have a [poor] product, you are not going to do well," this person told The Sun.
Still there are questions about the approach and the types of properties being touted, with this hotelier wondering whether some of those involved understood tourism.
"Some of the properties one can actually question whether they are a good fit for Dominica. I am concerned, and you probably are concerned, but the concern should not be on the number of rooms but what are you building and who are you building it for. Some of these buildings, if we expect [them to attract people] we are lost in Dominica," this hotelier added.
One other person, who also sought anonymity because of the sensible nature of the issue, said there was a need to increase demand in order to raise the current occupancy levels.
This person pointed to the problems with air access, the fact that Dominica remains relatively unknown and the need to improve the overall tourism product.
At the same time, this person said, the hoteliers needed to take responsibility to getting people to their properties, pointing to some hotels with high occupancy on a constant basis to prove the point.
"We end up with two categories of hotels: those that are really serious and focussed and committed and investing in marketing and a great guest experience, averaging between 60 per cent and 75 per cent occupancy, and those that are complaining and making excuses, averaging between 20 per cent and 30 per cent occupancies. And there are a few scattered between. Too many of us believe running a hotel means building the structure, throwing in some beds, putting up a sign, and waiting for people to come."
According to this person, any new hotel would have to be managed well, and some of the brand names would "do wonders for Dominica and will bring net new clients to the country who would not otherwise come here due to their marketing and distribution network".
"We need higher quality rooms with a strong brand behind them, and that will drive airlift," the person added.
But Martin is unconvinced.
"I'm convinced this is further proof of a total lack of vision. This is not about tourism, not about tourism."