Hundred of delegates who are involved in hotel investment, development and operations, have converged on Bermuda.
They will network, hold meetings and learn about hotel and resort opportunities on the island, and have the chance to take a boat tour to view development opportunities from a different perspective.
About 300 attendees are expected at the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit, which got under way with a cocktail reception yesterday evening.
It is the second consecutive year that Chicos has been held in Bermuda. The event provides a forum where those involved in the sector, or who have an interest in it, can learn about trends that are happening in the Caribbean and worldwide.
Equity players, debt providers, developers, and government representatives will be among those attending the three-day conference at the Fairmont Southampton.
Parris Jordan, managing director of HVS, the conference organiser, said Bermuda has proved to be a great partner and a number of factors were considered when deciding to bring the conference to the island for a second year — including how the economy and hotel development has performed.
One of the key topics of discussion this year will be the disaster and aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria on many Caribbean islands last year.
“We are seeing recovery in a lot of the islands. Even though it was a disaster it provided increased focus on the region. We saw increased investments,” Mr Jordan said.
Investors took a renewed interest in the region, with some on the lookout to buy hotels under market value, “hoping to get a great deal”.
Mr Jordan said: “And quite frankly, that wasn’t really the case. There was no fire sale.
“A lot of investors were able to hold on to their properties, and insurance proceeds helped some operators to rejuvenate, renovate and improve their overall product. A lot of these hotels are now in better shape.”
At the same time, islands not affected by the hurricanes benefited from visitors being diverted to them. Cayman Islands had a 20 per cent boost in visitors, while Bermuda, Aruba and Curaçao were among other destinations that welcomed more visitors.
However, Mr Jordan said there are still people who are unclear about which islands are operating at full capacity.
“So we need to be doing a better job. I’m not pinning blame on anyone. It needs to be a considered effort from the owners, from brands, from governments, so the word gets out.
“We’re in the business; we know the difference between Bermuda and Barbuda, unfortunately sometimes people don’t. So how do we educate the travelling public to understand that?”
Mr Jordan added that there are a lot of positives for the future as the Caribbean continues to be a preferred destination. He said: “The numbers continue to increase, demand increased every year for the past seven.”
Kevin Dallas, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, welcomed the event’s return, noting it has brought hundreds of attendees to the island outside the peak visitor season, and was also an opportunity for Bermuda to “put its best foot forward and earn the trust of investors”.
Representatives of the Bermuda Government, the BTA and the Bermuda Business Development Agency will attend the conference.
“This year, even more than before, we have a fantastic story to tell. We have had three years of solid growth under our belt, and not many places in the region can point to that kind of sustained growth. We are up 15 per cent year-to-date in visitor arrivals, which is incredible off the back of what was an amazing 2017,” Mr Dallas said.
He added that it will also be an opportunity to talk about the Bermuda National Tourism Plan and investments and developments that are ongoing.
“The plan gives us a road map for future growth. It gives us a story for how we are going to fill all that extra capacity that is coming on line, with the Azura, and work going on at Rosewood Bermuda, St Regis, Bermudiana Beach Resort, and Caroline Bay.”
Bermuda had just passed the Tourism Investment Act when Chicos was held on the island last year. Mr Dallas said this week’s event was an opportunity to explain with deeper understanding what the Act means for hotels, restaurants and others involved in the hospitality sector, and the opportunities “to earn a return by investing in Bermuda”.
Last year a number of delegates were taken on a tour of potential hotel development sites around the island. This time the tour will be by boat.
Mr Dallas said: “We have an open invite to take anyone from Chicos who is interested around Bermuda by water, so they can see some of the development opportunities from a different perspective.”