Air arrivals jump, while cruise numbers fall for Q1

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Tourist air arrivals rose for the ninth consecutive quarter, the Bermuda Tourism Authority revealed yesterday.

Rough weather at sea created a near 50 per cent fall in cruise ship arrivals in the first three months of the year.

Kevin Dallas, BTA CEO, said 26,316 visitors flew to the island between January and March, 21.3 per cent more than in the same period in 2017.

Visitors also spent more, contributing $32.7 million to the local economy — a 25 per cent increase year on year,

Mr Dallas said: “With reduced hotel inventory and cancelled flights there was no shortage of challenges to overcome in the first quarter, but our industry has proven resilient once again.

“Double-digit per cent increases in leisure air arrivals and spending are further steps in a long growth trajectory that is built on solid marketing fundamentals put in place by the BTA.”

Mr Dallas explained much of the air arrivals increase was due to higher capacity — particularly between the island and Boston. Air capacity on flights from Boston went up 117 per cent during the quarter, which led to 73 per cent more air arrivals from the city.

Mr Dallas said: “We see the same positive impact from Boston we saw out of New York when the air capacity increased at JFK.

“When supply and choice increase, demand goes up too and the net result is more travellers to Bermuda.”

He said the BTA had entered into a three-year joint marketing agreement with airline JetBlue to promote the carrier’s flights to the island.

Bermuda will get increased airlift and year-round service in return. Mr Dallas said: “They invest and we invest and we go to market together to promote their service to Bermuda.

“It is not a revenue guarantee, it is not a payment to JetBlue. It’s an agreement that we will invest a bit under $1 million a year to promote JetBlue service specifically to Bermuda.”

The increase in air arrivals was offset by a 49.5 per cent decline in cruise ship arrivals due in part to a series of winter storms.

Mr Dallas said: “We had three cruises that had to be cancelled, one of which was rescheduled.

“In a quarter, that small movement can make a big difference. That brought down the total number of cruise visitors in the quarter significantly.”

He added that hurricanes in the Caribbean last autumn had lingering effects on the cruise ship schedule.

Mr Dallas said: “A large number of ships that traditionally go from a summer in the Mediterranean to a winter in the Caribbean didn’t make the migration last fall and are therefore not making the transition back.

“We saw a large decrease in transient yachts that were stopping by between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

“We don’t believe there is anything structural here. This is not about the America’s Cup. It’s most likely due to the hurricanes and their impact.”

Mr Dallas said the number of available hotel rooms fell in the quarter because six of the island’s hotels had rooms unavailable for renovations.

He added hotel occupancy rose by 1.9 per cent and revenue per available room increased by 6 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Mr Dallas said: “We are still not at a point where they are profitable in the winter months, and that remains our goal. We really do want to get to a point where our hotels are profitable year round rather than just in the peak summer months, so we have more work to do.”

Mr Dallas said that visitor arrivals increased among all age groups, with the largest increases in those aged under 24.

The number of visitors under the age of 17 increased by 45.8 per cent, while those between 18 and 24 rose by 40.9 per cent.

Mr Dallas said: “In visitor stats, in media coverage and on social media, couples with young children are a constant, so we want to align stakeholders to ensure we’re growing this market segment and serving it with well-suited on-island experiences.”

He said the island will host the Family Travel Association Annual Summit in October, which will bring about 200 family-focused tour operators and travel agents to Bermuda.

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Published May 9, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated May 9, 2018 at 7:06 am)

Air arrivals jump, while cruise numbers fall for Q1

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