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Chin Lee predicts slow hotel growth in 2014
There will not be strong growth in the hotel industry in 2014, says Fred Chin Lee, chairman, Normandie Hotel. “The growth in rooms in the hotel industry will be slow because the tourism product is not in place,” Chin Lee said in an interview at the launch of Hotel Normandie’s Breakfast Buffet, St Ann’s.
“The international promotion of destination T&T is not there and falls short of what should be done. That is on the room aspect of the hotel industry. I was thinking of room expansion for Normandie but I changed that plan and opted for renovations of the hotel instead.” Chin Lee expects “more activity” on the food and beverage side of the industry in 2014 as he said the economy should do better.
“The food and beverage side of the industry will be more active than what took place before the economy slowed down during the global economic downturn. T&T is spending about TT$50 billion to $60 billion right now in the economy and it should have the trickle-down effect on the domestic economy which will help the hotel industry,” he said. He said T&T cannot continue to depend on oil and gas as the main source of revenue for the country and must diversify into other areas.
“People must look at the island of Aruba as they had a refinery there which was closed down. They then introduced a tourism master plan and in 15 months they reduced their high unemployment rate and even had to import labour after. This is a model T&T can look at in terms of how it can expand into new areas. No country in the Caribbean has the talent or resources like T&T,” he said. He said T&T’s hotel industry survived the worst of the global recession.
“Prior to the 2011 financial crisis there was some expansion in T&T like Courtyard By Marriott Hotel and Holiday Inn and then there were the smaller guest houses expanding. Then came the slowdown in the industry. After that it became competitive which triggered the upgrade at our hotel,” he said. Despite the challenges, Chin Lee is optimistic about the economy and said work continues on upgrading the Normandie Hotel.
He has also hired Ali Khan, former general manager of Hilton Trinidad, who is now special adviser at the Normandie Hotel. “We have been upgrading the hotel for the past two years. Ali Khan coming here is part of the upgrade. Then there is the physical upgrade. We have already spent TT$ 120,000 on refurbishing the bathroom area. Then there is the air-conditioning and the bathroom areas which are being renovated right now,” he said.
Chin Lee expects business to fare better than previous years as the hotel industry heads into Carnival season. “I think December will be better than last year and for the Carnival period of January to March it will be better. I have energised managers here at the hotel who will open up the Carnival programmes,” he said.
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