Jump in arrivals from Canada
The number of Canadians arriving in Bermuda for the first quarter this year improved by 35 per cent, according to visitor arrival data from the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
But the announcement prompted Jamahl Simmons, the Progressive Labour Party’s spokesman for tourism and entrepreneurship, to query when the statistics would translate into more Bermudian jobs.
The largest percentage increase of any country with direct air service to Bermuda, Canadian growth represents 855 additional visitor arrivals compared with the same period a year ago, the BTA said.
Senator Michael Fahy, the tourism minister, noted in a press release that winter airlift and moderate airfare prices had contributed to the improved performance.
“Despite a Canada dollar still struggling against other currencies, WestJet and Air Canada kept flights going this winter, and airfare prices were moderate,” he said.
“Without those two contributing factors it’s likely we would not have seen this growth.”
Mr Fahy added: “The BTA news that overall leisure air arrivals grew 19 per cent year-over-year and air vacationer spending surged 30.5 per cent is obviously fantastic news.
“This is further validation of the government decision to take politics out of tourism and create the BTA.
“Despite the negative remarks from detractors, these increased arrivals are a boost to all the ancillary services that support hotels.
“This includes taxi drivers, mini buses, local restaurants and other tourism related activities. And of course, this provides job opportunities for Bermudians in the hotel industry.
“We look forward to receiving the new JetBlue flights this week as well. Bermuda tourism is looking better and better.
“There are new developments, new flights and increased airlift generally. It is truly an exciting time for Bermuda tourism. The BTA and our industry partners should be congratulated.”
Vacation and leisure arrivals from the United States were up 22 per cent or 2,991 arrivals year-over-year, although British visits for vacation were down 20 per cent or by 290 arrivals.
The press release said a recent Caribbean Tourism Organisation report listed Bermuda among 13 out of 15 Caribbean region destinations which showed some growth out of Canada in the first quarter.
Some 76 per cent of leisure air arrivals to Bermuda in the first three months came from the United States, 15 per cent from Canada and 5 per cent from Britain.
The Ministry of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities leads the country’s airlift strategy with assistance from the Bermuda Tourism Authority, which works on air traveller demand to fill the seats.
In the first quarter, the primary Bermuda tourism markets in the northeast — New York, Boston and Philadelphia — saw strong increases year-over-year: 40 per cent, 27.5 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.
However, Mr Simmons said that air arrivals for 2014 and 2015 stood at 48- and 49-year lows, and that the tourism sector “continues to see Bermudian jobs decline, while jobs held by non-Bermudians increased”.
The One Bermuda Alliance was once more taken to task for the 2012 electoral promise of creating 2,000 jobs, with Mr Simmons saying more than 2,000 had been lost since then — including 318 hotel jobs.
“When your grades move from an F to a D, that is encouraging, but when increased tourism numbers aren’t bringing with them work for unemployed Bermudians, we should all be concerned,” he said.
“Every Bermudian that lost their job last year in the tourism industry has to wonder why they aren’t seeing the results that the OBA is boasting about.
“As they try to pay their bills and keep up with the cost of living, they have to wonder why they aren’t seeing the results the OBA is boasting about.
“The reality is that while one Bermuda, the elite and privileged have many reasons to think things are getting better, the rest of us are being left out and left behind in a Bermuda that is working less and less for Bermudians.”
While the Opposition supported the BTA and “the removal of politics from tourism”, Mr Simmons said more collaboration and consultation with stakeholders would be encouraged under a PLP government.
He accused the OBA of taking credit for the BTA’s work at the expense of generating Bermudian jobs.