Angry DeSilva hints at change for tourism
“Changes are coming”, potentially at the board level, for the island’s independent tourism overseer, Zane DeSilva warned the House of Assembly on Friday night.
The Bermuda Tourism Authority was blasted for its 2019 statistics showing record tourism numbers, even as visitor air arrivals last year fell by 6 per cent. “Am I happy with these figures? Hell, no,” the tourism minister told MPs. “Some changes are coming. I want to lay down a marker tonight.”
Mr DeSilva was backed by David Burt, the Premier, who said switches may include giving the minister “power to remove tourism board members at this point in time”.
The salvo came one year after Mr DeSilva praised the island’s high numbers in cruise tourism, but told the BTA it was “time to focus our efforts on growing leisure air arrivals”.
Boosting air visitors, which yield substantially higher visitor spending, have proved elusive for the BTA, which was unveiled in December 2013 as a shot in the arm for the ailing sector.
Mr DeSilva, who said there were “some hard-working people in the BTA”, added: “We have a board, and some members have done well, some will continue to do well.”
However, Mr DeSilva said under the authority’s founding legislation, brought by the One Bermuda Alliance, “the minister can only do so much”.
He did not elaborate, but told the House changes could come as “as soon as this week”.
The threat of greater ministerial control echoed the Progressive Labour Party government’s move at the end of 2017 to reduce the independence of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, which sparked the resignation of Alan Dunch as chairman.
A spokeswoman for the BTA declined to comment last night.
Mr DeSilva’s remarks during the Motion to Adjourn also criticised Skyport, the company running LF Wade International Airport under the OBA deal to build a new airline terminal.
He said the agreement would have had Skyport paying any fees to airlines to increase airlift to Bermuda, but added: “It ain’t the case. Skyport are not doing their part.”
Mr Burt agreed, saying the Government was left footing the bill for MRGs, minimum revenue guarantees paid to airlines, while Skyport was “taking all the money to the bank”.
Last night, a spokeswoman for Skyport responded: “Skyport has maintained its commitment to work closely with Government and the BTA in allocating significant resources to support new air service development initiatives.”
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