BTA hires firm to boost air arrivals

A US-based firm of consultants has been signed up to help boost air arrivals, the head of the Bermuda Tourism Authority revealed yesterday.

Kevin Dallas, the chief executive of the BTA, said the organisation and the Bermuda Airport Authority had joined forces to recruit Ailevon Pacific Aviation Consulting, in a bid to increase airlift to the island.

The company, whose headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia and which also has an office in Sydney, Australia, was hired with government approval after a request for proposal process.

It is understood a major factor was their experience of work with smaller airports.

Mr Dallas said: “We selected APAC for its successful track record with helping other relevant destinations increase their air capacity, including places such as Hawaii, Palm Springs, California, Savannah, Georgia, and Asheville, North Carolina, whose size or criteria align with Bermuda and our National Tourism Plan.

“By undertaking this initiative, we’ll be working with the BAA to spearhead a realistic strategy that examines our island’s diverse needs in the context of key cities and target audiences, then works with airline partners to achieve the highest airlift possible throughout all seasons of the year.”

He added: “I’m certain from the RFP process that we have hired the best people on the market.

“We hired them with an expectation that over time, they will help us get results.”

Mr Dallas said representatives from the company will be in Bermuda next week to work with interested parties to develop a plan to attract the most suitable flights and airlines to Bermuda.

A BTA spokeswoman said: “Consultants are speaking with both authorities’ teams, and will also meet with key stakeholder groups, including the Bermuda Government, Skyport, global business associations, the Chamber of Commerce and travel agents to gather diverse perspectives on airlift challenges and needs as they affect Bermuda. The collaborative initiative is focused on identifying the best airlift strategy for Bermuda, along with potential opportunities in negotiations with airlines.”

Mr Dallas added that airlift was a key element in visitor air arrivals as it can affect the cost to travel to and from Bermuda.

He said: “There’s clearly a correlation between the number of leisure air arrivals and air capacity. Every Bermudian will be aware that the costs to fly have been higher this summer than they have been the last couple of years. That has the same impact on visitors as it has on residents.”

He was speaking after it was revealed earlier this week that year on year tourist air arrivals had dropped by 5 per cent.

Mr Dallas said much of the decline was due to airline schedule changes that reduced the number of flights between Bermuda and New York.

Visitor air arrivals from the city — Bermuda’s largest tourism market — fell by more than 12 per cent in the first half of the year with 3,182 fewer tourists from the area compared to the same period in 2018.

The figures also revealed a 4.4 per cent drop in hotel occupancy rates in the first half of the year.

Stephen Todd, the CEO of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said hoteliers were warned about the potential effect of the decline in airlift and taken steps to prepare themselves.

Mr Todd added: “We knew that was going to have an impact on the number of visitors, so we were able to prepare ourselves.

“We have been working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority to offset some of those losses.

“One of the things we are always focused on is to ensure that our employees and partners stay gainfully employed, so we try to get the occupancy numbers as high as possible.”

He said the hotels worked with the BTA to encourage visitors to the island — and to extend the stays of those who did choose Bermuda as their destination.

Mr Todd added: “We try to look at how we can attract guests and make sure that we have guests stay for as long as possible.

“If we can encourage them to stay five or six days instead of a weekend, that’s only going to benefit us.”

Mr Todd said he was confident that efforts to improve airlift and boost visitors to Bermuda in slower shoulder months would pay off.

He added: “We have been assured that efforts are being made by all parties to not only encourage airlines to increase their lift, but also to attract new airlines to Bermuda.

“With the work that the BTA is doing to attract guests, we are optimistic that the strategy used by the BTA to implement the National Tourism Plan is going to start to reap rewards.

“We believe it is going to get traction and provide greater incentives for visitors to come to Bermuda and hopefully stay in our hotel rooms.”

Mr Todd said the BHA had no fear that a decrease in hotel occupancy would hit new hotels due to open in the near future.

He said: “They have done their research. They will be offering products that will be quite attractive and well supported by visitors.”

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Published Aug 16, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm)

BTA hires firm to boost air arrivals

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