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Pompano Beach: A model of sustained tourism success

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It’s not even officially spring and the Lamb family’s Pompano Beach Club is filled with guests; some at the bar, others enjoying the afternoon by the pool, even swimming in the turquoise waters below.

The newest member of the resort’s 95 staff, Patti Pitt, a former Bermuda Tourism manager, is giving a personal tour of the property that’s given to every new guest upon check-in.

Tom and Larry Lamb say the resort boasts a summer occupancy of more than 90 percent, with nearly half of their summer bookings from repeat guests.

“The resort’s year-round occupancy numbers are not where we want them to be,” he admitted. “But we are still doing fairly well. The recent fall, winter and spring seasons have been disappointing from an occupancy standpoint and continue to be major focal points for us.”

He added: “We don’t lose money.”

That compares to an average hotel occupancy in Bermuda of 56.3 percent in 2011 and as high as 67 percent in 2007.

Not fans of discounting, the Lambs suggested a good model for Bermuda might be chic St Bart’s.

“St Bart’s is the island that’s probably closest to Bermuda in terms of offering a classy vacation,” Larry said. “They don’t do a lot of discounting.”

A French Caribbean celebrity mecca, St Barthelemy, is just eight square miles, and has only about two dozen high-end hotels, most of them with 15 rooms or fewer, and the largest, the Guanahani with 70 rooms. The focus is more on ultra-luxury villa rentals, which go for thousands of dollars a week. Around 200,000 tourists visit the island a year.

Larry said they also felt said Bermuda Tourism needed to start “fishing where the fish are”, by stepping up their US East Coast marketing and offering value in ways other than discounting rates.

In trying to keep up with the dramatically increased completion from resort destinations, the Lambs said: “We lost our way on the marketing side.”

Rather than discounting rates, the Lambs prefer to offer extended shoulder-season rates and other specials at Pompano. Their rates also include full breakfast and dinner and lilos and other swimming inflatables are free to guests. They also such value-added services as complimentary tea in the winter and spring months.

The Lambs said they felt the biggest single factor contributing to tourism’s decline was competition from places that weren’t on the map in the 1980s such as the Dominican Republic and Mexico, and also competition form the new cruise ships that operate without the costs and taxes hotels have to face.

In their opinion, it’s the high cost of operating in Bermuda that has resulted in so little resort investment in Bermuda in 40 years.

He said developers generally need to borrow money for land and building costs, yet in taking on that much debt: “If you do that math it just does not work under the current model.”

The Lambs said unlike other properties, Pompano has not taken on any major debt, preferring to expand and upgrade the property project by project with capital reserve funds rather than borrowing.

Pompano now has 75 rooms, and some reviewers have complained about rooms being dated, although they have since been redone, and that has not taken away from it being Bermuda’s number-one-rated hotel on TripAdvisor.com.

Begun as a fishing club, the Lamb family has owned and operated Pompano since 1956.

Tom Lamb III, a Cornell Hotel School graduate, is the current managing director. He joined his brother Larry to form a two-person management team.

Their mother, 82-year-old Jean Lamb is the resort’s chairman and also personally overseas the resort’s Boston area sales office.

The Lambs say their “guest-comes-first philosophy” has helped Pompano to be the top-rated Bermuda hotel for seven years straight now.

“We just feel passionate about what we do and we love what we do,” said Tom.

From the moment you walk into the lobby and feel the warm hospitality of the staff and owners, and take in Pompano’s spectacular view over the ocean and protected beach, you can see why it is consistently ranked number one.

One reviewer recently wrote: “My husband travels often for business, but due to my own crazy plane anxiety, the children (ages 17 and 15) and I had not been on a plane since 2001. About 10 days before we arrived at the Pompano Beach Club, I decided it was time to get on a plane. I wanted to go somewhere tropical and close.

“At 90 minutes’ flying time, Bermuda quickly became the destination. It was August (2011), and every place was booked. As a TripAdvisor junkie (we do A LOT of road trips), I was bummed that the Pompano Beach Club appeared booked.

“Something told me to call, and much to my surprise Larry Lamb answered the phone. First impressions are everything, and Larry assured me that he was going to find me a room that would fit us, and that we were going to have an incredible time. He noted that we had an early flight in, and our room was ready when we arrived!

“In fact, multiple members of the staff and family were waiting at the door for us. Their first words were, ‘You’re room is ready, get your bathing suits on and get out to the beach!’ OMG, that aqua water against the pink sand.”

Number one in Bermuda: Pompano Beach Club co-owner Tom Lamb (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Sustained success: Pompano Beach Club (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Number one in Bermuda: Pompano Beach Club co-owner Tom Lamb (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published March 22, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 22, 2012 at 9:08 am)

Pompano Beach: A model of sustained tourism success

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