‘Mr Tourism’ Selley dies, aged 90

  • Mr Tourism: Colin Selley

    Mr Tourism: Colin Selley

Colin Selley, a former Director of Tourism during the island’s golden years of the industry, has died. He was 90.

Mr Selley was also a keen tennis player, umpire and founding president of the Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association.

He championed Bermuda as a destination and created crowd-pleasers such as College Weeks and organised royal visits. His family said he was known as “Mr Tourism”, and presided over the heyday of island tourism.

He began tourism promotion in 1950 and headed the Bermuda News Bureau. The office was a forerunner of the Department of Tourism, which he directed from 1975 to 1984.

Bryan Darby, a veteran broadcaster who worked with Mr Selley at the bureau, said he was an “efficient, well-organised and pleasant” promoter of the island. Mr Darby added: “He left a legacy. Colin was one of those Bermudians that understood the island as a tourist attraction and put together the most amazing marketing. Every idea he came up with was a success.”

Mark Selley, Mr Selley’s son, traced his father’s gift in hospitality back to his early days in the family’s grocery business.

Fresh from the University of Pennsylvania, Mr Selley worked at the store chain OR Loblein before he moved on to work in radio broadcasting.

But Mark said his father’s “whole life was tourism”.

He added: “He lived and breathed making this island — he just got it.”

Mark said his father’s secret was his ability to attract young people to Bermuda and keep them returning year after year.

The family home at Point Shares in Pembroke was often filled with travel agents and other visitors, and Mr Selley, an executive member of the professional association Skal International, travelled the world to cultivate industry relationships.

He often took local artists such as Hubert Smith and the Talbot Brothers on overseas trips to help sell the island’s attractions and insisted on wearing Bermuda shorts wherever he went.

Mr Selley worked as a consultant for island destinations worldwide, where he was much in demand because of Bermuda’s success, after he retired as tourism director in 1984.

His daughter Sue Kemp said: “Dad’s whole life was tourism, and it was about quality, not quantity. The lengths he went to were unbelievable — he became a rock star for Bermuda.”

Doug Selley, another son, added Mr Selley was “a larger than life personality”.

He said: “He had a great sense of humour, always telling stories and always holding the floor.”

But Mr Selley’s intensive work came at a cost. He told The Royal Gazette in 1998: “In those days, there was no leisure time to worry about kids. I was going from city to city. I went nine years once without taking a vacation.”

Derek Singleton, long-serving tennis pro at the Coral Beach Club, said Mr Selley was “Mr Tennis in Bermuda”.

He added: “He was a wonderful sportsman and tennis administrator who was not only a first-class player, but an umpire who used to umpire the US Open at Forest Hills, New York City, in the 1970s.

“Colin represented Bermuda at the Pan American Games in the 1960s, and he managed the Bermuda team for the Games in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967, where I was the number one player for Bermuda.

“He set a very high standard for everybody to follow. He was one of the greatest sportsmen that Bermuda ever produced.”

Mr Singleton said Mr Selley incorporated the sport in his promotion of tourism and worked “night and day for Bermuda tourism and tennis”.

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Published May 10, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated May 10, 2018 at 6:49 am)

‘Mr Tourism’ Selley dies, aged 90

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