Hyatt Regency Hotel

There is a huge demand for rooms for next year Carnival with at least one major hotel sold out and huge demand for the others. It will also mean visitors have to find large sums for accommodation.

The Hyatt Regency and Conference Centre Trinidad is already sold out for Carnival 2023.

The season is expected to run from February 16 to February 23.

In 2021, there was no reign of the Merry Monarch due to COVID-19 while this year the Tourism Ministry organised a “Taste of Carnival” which included specific activities for vaccinated people.

And while Carnival 2023 maybe some 10 month away, aficionados are already trying to secure a hotel spot in anticipation of full-fledged events given Government’s lifting of restrictions and the elimination of safe zones.

According to one of Hyatt’s representatives, all rooms were gone within 24 hours, when bookings were opened on Ash Wednesday this year.

“Within one day all the rooms we sold out. We were in shock that all the rooms went so fast. This is the first time in years that all the rooms had gone so fast,” she said.

This was also confirmed by the hotel’s call centre based in Omaha US.

That spokesperson also explained to the Business Guardian that there is no waiting list in the event of someone wanting to get a room at the Hyatt for the Carnival period.

“At this point we have no cancellations. The best option is to keep on calling the reservations centre in the event of a cancellation” she advised.

The unavailability of hotel rooms for Carnival 2023 has been the focal point on social media as some complained about difficulty in finding accommodation in Trinidad.

“I was going to make a Trinidad Carnival 2023 but it’s an absolute no. There are no places to stay. I hope all of you have family there,” one person wrote, to which another replied that the situation was “insane.”

And for those wanting a room at the Hilton Trinidad, they will have check back within the next couple of weeks.

The reason being the hotel has not opened its February 2023 booking as yet.

“So when someone tries to make a booking it will show unavailable but that’s not the case,” a representative said.

At Kapok, the situation was somewhat similar as that establishment is also yet to work out its rates for the season.

However, your name can be placed on a waiting list in the meantime to assist in securing a room.

At the Radisson rooms are available as well as Carnival packages.

From February 17 to February 21 be prepared to shell out around US $3357, one customer service representative said.

And from February 16 to around February 23 the stay at the Marriott Invaders Bay, will cost around US $4888.40 when the Business Guardian called.

For small boutiques hotels like The Chancellor, St Ann’s—regulars are expected to return and perhaps newcomers seeking accommodation.

Lisa Shandilya, the hotel’s owner said she has been receiving “more than the usual requests” thus far.

“I will be ready in April. I’m not worried about sales as all my regulars want to return,” she added.

Over in Tobago, the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort also anticipates a bumper season for Carnival next year.

General manager Vinod Bajaj said while it’s still too early to determine bookings, the hotel is expected to do well as it has done normally in previous occasions.

“For us it’s last minute. In previous years we have done very well because there are people who come across during the Carnival period,” Bajaj added.

The Business Guardian also reached out to Chris James, president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, who explained that the island’s marketing period for Carnival is usually in October the year before the season.

He emphasised that what Tobago currently needs are more inbound flights to boost the sector.

Airbnb growing

Tenisha Brown-Williams, who was recently appointed as the Airbnb Host Community Leader for T&T, said it is no surprise that a few hotels have already been booked solid for Carnival 2023.

According to Brown-Williams ongoing monitoring of both the traditional and non-traditional tourist accommodation sectors will assist in more accurate predictions and understanding of the overall recovery of the accommodation sector in T&T.

She explained that Airbnb, as it has done for other destinations globally, has provided additional accommodation capacity for T&T by linking owners and managers of private residential spaces to visitors who demand more authentic lodging experiences at competitive rates.

Citing that from 2014, Airbnb properties have been available for Carnival, Brown-Williams noted that this has been critical in providing additional roomstock, especially in the Port-of-Spain area, as the usual traditional tourist accommodation, like hotel rooms, are usually sold-out months before.

“Pre-COVID, Airbnb properties outside of Port-of-Spain had booking lead times eight months in advance of Carnival,” Brown-Williams said.

Further, she added that due to the assortment and affordability of Airbnb properties, she has observed over that in the last six years, there’s a willingness by Carnival visitors to book properties outside of the Capital.

In some instances, as far as Arima.

“Visitors who are price sensitive do not mind traversing the distance to enjoy the festivities once safe and reliable transportation is provided,” Brown-Williams explained.

Additionally, she said there has also been an increased demand for apartments which can hold large groups at affordable rates for the Carnival period.

However, Brown-Williams noted that customer bookings are currently trending towards last-minute bookings since travellers wish to avoid cancellations due to the ongoing pandemic, which remains a fluid situation.

She also cited that data from Travelzoo indicated that only 50 per cent of travellers are booking trips four months out or longer.

In 2014, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association indicated that Airbnb had emerged in the Caribbean six years after its establishment in the United States in 2008.

By 2016 there were 400 hosts and 689 active listings on the platform for T&T, offering a suite of houses, apartments, and rooms, the association noted.

Further, comparable and exponential growth is seen in other Caribbean destinations

where over one-third of their current room inventory is now attributed to these rentals, Brown-Williams said.

In addition, she added in 2017, Airbnb saw an increase in bookings in the Caribbean by 117 per cent compared to 2016, with further growth in 2019.

Brown-Williams noted that while data is not readily available from Airbnb on the total number of listings and hosts in T&T as of the end of 2021, it can be postulated that the increase since 2016 has been significant due to several factors.

One of which, she cited, is attributed to the economic decline in 2016 and 2017.

“A glut in the housing sector emerged as many energy-based companies reduced staff, resulting in many expatriates leaving the country.

“Local home-owners with mortgage obligations or seeking to replace lost income opted for becoming Airbnb properties to facilitate short-term stays while earning foreign revenue,” she explained.

As her role as Host Community Leader, Brown-Williams said she is tasked with serving as a conduit between Airbnb, the host community, policy-makers and destination managers while fostering host-to-host connection, collaboration, and learning.

Further, Brown-Williams hopes that in the not-too-distant future, a policy position on Airbnb will be formulated, given that further growth of the tourism sharing economy is expected in a post-COVID-19 context.

Moreso, she believes that Airbnb will continue to be a staple item in T&T’s tourism sector during and outside the Carnival period.