Canadian economist to help kick off CHICOS 2019

CIBC's Avery Shenfeld will help set the stage at CHICOS 2019.

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA — The Canadian content will be right up front. Avery Shenfeld of CIBC will help set the stage for the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit, which takes place Nov. 14-15 at Secrets, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Shenfeld is managing director and chief economist of CIBC Capital Markets. He has been with CIBC since 1993 and is widely recognized as one of Canada’s leading economists for his perceptive analysis and insight on economic developments and their implications for financial markets.

This is the ninth edition of the popular CHICOS conference, which brings together over 300 regional and international investors, operators and decision-makers. Shenfeld will be one of the opening presenters during the first day of the conference along with Parris Jordan, Carter Wilson from STR and George Spence from Leading Property Group.

Delegates will also hear from government heads of state, including Andrew Holness, Jamaican prime minister; Daniel Gibbs, president of French St. Martin; and Albert Bryan Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

At a time when the U.S. economy is slowing, the Caribbean market continues to perform well, Parris Jordan of HVS, the CHICOS conference chair told Canadian Lodging News in an interview. “RevPAR is up 10 per cent year over year ending June 2019. This is mainly driven by an increase in average rate, as occupancy is flat. When RevPAR is driven by rate, it adds a lot more to the bottom line.”

Some islands have had their challenges, including the Dominican Republic when the news broke regarding issues with tourist fatalities. 

Founder and chair of CHICOS, Parris Jordan, addresses last year's conference.
Founder and chair of CHICOS, Parris Jordan, addresses last year’s conference.

But the region is looking for notable increases in supply this year, in what used to be a low, muted market. “The banks are a little more aggressive and more debt financing is available than in years past.” After 2009, it took awhile for banks to be as confident as they were before the recession, said Jordan. Now they are more confident, and there is new hotel supply both underway and in the pipeline. 

In the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes, many operators held rate. Now they can benefit by increasing rate. Occupancy is greater than 68 per cent, which in a seasonal market is very good, Jordan said. 

“Bermuda is seeing some new luxury properties, and that’s also happening  in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic,” he added.

AC by Marriott, Kingston, Jamaica.
AC by Marriott, Kingston, Jamaica.

Jamaica, this year’s host country, has a government which is very progressive, and is now reaping the benefits of that. “RevPAR in Jamaica is up more than 8 per cent, and there is a lot of interest in new supply as we speak and new supply in the future.” Jordan said. “Jamaica has a larger land mass than many of the islands, and 65 per cent of its visitors are from the U.S.” 

Historically, Jamaica’s resorts have been all-inclusive. Now, there are luxury properties including GoldenEye, a collection of luxe vacation villas, cottages and beach huts. The property is famous for being the home of writer Ian Fleming, who created James Bond, and it is performing well. 

AC by Marriott, a select-service tier property, came to Kingston, Jamaica, this year — and there’s lots of room for growth for select service hotels in the country, Jordan noted. Jamaica is looking to attract chains like Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and The Ritz-Carlton, all of which will have representation at CHICOS.

The conference takes place at Secrets Montego Bay. Guests can book at St. James/Wild Orchid or Breathless Montego Bay.
The conference takes place at Secrets Montego Bay. Guests can book at St. James/Wild Orchid or Breathless Montego Bay.

Changing the dialogue

Although not all the islands in the Caribbean were damaged by the hurricanes of 2017, travellers generalized the Caribbean as one space and the news kept many people away.  While Barbuda was devastated and Bermuda was not, people got the names mixed up and Bermuda tourism was impacted.

Similarly, although only 15 per cent of the rooms in the Bahamas were impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Dorian this year, people were cancelling trips to other parts of the Bahamas. 

“In the Bahamas, more than 50 per cent of the revenue is either directly or indirectly generated from tourism. We need to have a much better crisis management plan,” Jordan said. CHICOS is working with Fairleigh Dickinson University, trying to help operators in the region get the message out. 

In addition to crisis management, the CHICOS conference will cover debt and equity, all-inclusive properties, resort design and construction, lending and environmental issues such as Sargassum, an algae that has been accumulating on the region’s beaches.