Tourism needs truth and honesty
Most Bermudians would be happy to have a successful tourist industry, just as they would be happy to see the Island climb out of this enormous debt, that continues to create hardship on a scale yet to be fully measured.
Bermudians are well aware that much has changed since Bermuda captured the spotlight as a unique resort in the Atlantic many years ago. Apart from its natural beauty, the Island became known for some of the friendliest people on the planet. This, despite the social injustice that prevailed not only here, but in many parts of the world.
Bermuda’s advantage was its size and small population, but most of all there was a more unified spirit of being on a ship together, and whether you were in a suite or a lower deck cabin, everyone knew that if the ship sank, the ocean would be unconcerned about status.
Even as Bermuda toiled with the social injustice problem, there were local entertainers taking to the stage nightly at various hotels, to perform for people in places were they were only allowed to enter and leave via the back door. Even more amazingly was the fact that these entertainers did so without malice, as though they knew their job was to make Bermuda a better place, regardless of the faulty social system that could never survive the unstoppable march toward justice for all.
Many of our visitors in those early days came from places where racism was a part of daily life, and some were astonished at the warmth from Bermudians and left with plans to spread the word and return. We seem to have forgotten today is that much of that wonderful spirit of hospitality was a natural part of Bermudian culture. It was a time when gentlemen tipped their hats when they passed a lady on the street, whether they knew her or not.
The key point here is that the success of the tourist industry years ago was not simply because Bermuda had beautiful beaches and crystal clear water. The people, black and white, were at least united in how we treated our guests. In fact, visitors leaving our shores usually could not wait to get home and tell others about the wonderful people and the beauty of Bermuda.
In recent decades Bermuda has undergone significant changes and while we welcome the positives, there are too many negatives that cannot be ignored. Our crumbling family values have been a contributing factor in many of the social problems we face and solutions are not around the corner.
Deadly gun play between rival gangs, violent crime and hostile attitudes from too many young people are having an adverse effect on our way of life, and threaten communities throughout our Island home. When Bermudians become edgy about their own safety, it is of the utmost concern.
Tourism officials have an uphill battle in trying to promote a product that even they know is not what it was. No amount of glossy ads and enticement slogans will change that.
It is one thing trying to drum up business with various schemes, but major improvements are required to our overall management structure, to avoid situations where labour disputes spill over into critical work stoppages that leave Bermudians and visitors stranded .
Most would agree that workers’ rights must be protected, but this should be achieved with the utmost input of common sense, and not a clenched fist “my way or no way”approach, by either management or unions. These are serious matters that cross political party lines because every Bermudian is affected when the Island image is shattered by out of control labour disputes.
Tourism worldwide has been hit by the global recession, and being competitive means having attractive prices with great service in an atmosphere of stability and peace. Tourists everywhere spend less these days and unless there is a global upsurge in the economy, nothing will change in a hurry.
The size of the Tourism Board will mean nothing unless there is an honest approach in keeping a high level of service throughout our industry which many feel has declined over the years. This is not to say there are not dedicated Bermudians doing a wonderful job in the area of service. But we all know there have been attitude changes that have not gone unnoticed by some regular visitors.
Our goal has to be to get every visitor to be our advertisement when they leave. This would cut down on the high cost of overseas sales pitches to people where many are already hard pressed due to the economic down turn.
Monthly statistics on how many visitors we had or did not have mean little to those without jobs and scrambling to support families. The reality is that Bermuda needs an injection of truth and honesty if we hope to rebuild and rekindle our tourist industry and the economic status we were once proud of.
We can choose to work together, or continue a divisive path, but we should remember when a ship sinks, the ocean has no regard for status.
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