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Cambridge Beaches: It’s been a real struggle

Fighting hard: Cambridge Beaches general manager Clarence Hofheins said the resort had to adapt to aggressive rates from the Island’s large hotels last summer

A battle to secure visitors made 2015 a difficult year for Cambridge Beaches, according to general manager Clarence Hofheins.

While the resort was able to increase its occupancy over the summer months by lowering room rates, the move only increased the site’s cost to operate.

“It has been a real struggle for all of us,” Mr Hofheins said. “We were hoping that we would see an increase and we haven’t seen that. We had to literally struggle through the year.”

Mr Hofheins said 2015 started positively, but increased competition from the larger hotels during the summer proved to be costly.

“Our biggest thing is in the summer months, when we make our money, our business is linked not just to occupancy but to rate,” he explained.

“What happened this summer was some of the large hotels had a lot of inventory that was not filled up with the group business that they have had in the past.

“They had to jump in and fight for our business. They went out with an aggressive rate, which drove the rates down for everywhere else. Here at Cambridge Beaches we had to make a decision whether we were going to try to hold our rate or if we were going to compete, and we chose to compete. We actually increased our occupancy, but we had to give up a significant amount of rate on a daily basis to get that business.

“I’m afraid that it’s going to happen every year now. We are hoping that next year the bigger hotels do have more group business than they did this time, but we have to prepare ourselves if that doesn’t happen and we have to continue to fight in the summer for these guests. We need to make changes to adapt to that, and it’s all about trying to cut costs.”

Hotel manager Richard Quinn added: “While we’re dropping down our rates, our operational costs aren’t lower at all. We’re operating at a higher cost for a lower revenue base.”

Moving forward, Mr Quinn said the resort plan to continually reinvest in their facilities to ensure a quality experience for guests.

“That’s particularly important given the age of the plant,” he said. “We’ve been here since 1947.”

Mr Hofheins said the resort has been working to promote itself locally as well as internationally, noting that their Monday night barbecues have proven popular among residents. He also said that management are working hard to ensure visitors get value for money.

“Even if people have the money, they want to make sure that whatever they are spending they are getting a good value,” he said. “We have got to have a product that matches our rates, so we are renovating our rooms, our common areas, some of our restaurants, all to be able to compete in 2016 and 2017, with the America’s Cup coming.”

Mr Hofheins said he is optimistic about the potential impact of the prestigious event, particularly because of the resort’s proximity to Dockyard, adding that they did receive a boost in visitors from the World Series event in October.

Casinos could also make a difference to business, he said, although he added that he does not believe that Cambridge Beaches would qualify as a casino site.

“One way or the other, I would love to see a casino in the west end,” he said. “If it’s in Dockyard, or somewhere by Port Royal or the Fairmont Southampton, that would be great. That’s fine for us.”

Both Mr Quinn and Mr Hofheins said that they would welcome the construction of new hotels, saying that such investments in the industry would help increase flights to the Island.

“We need a bigger room base to attract more flights,” Mr Hofheins said. “That’s what airlines want. It’s competition for us, but it builds on the perception of Bermuda.

“If you look at 2007 and 2008, we had all that building going on. We had Newstead, Tucker’s Point, The Reefs. Granted, the recession hit, but 2007 and 2008 were the best years for Bermuda. If we can get some of those other hotels building, it would be great.”