Dallas to step down from BTA
The chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority is to quit the job tomorrow, it was announced yesterday.
Kevin Dallas will step down after three years in the post — over which the island notched up record numbers of visitors.
However, the move was said to have no “direct relevance” to plans for a restructure at the public-private authority or the tourism minister’s forecast of “changes” less than two weeks ago.
Mr Dallas said yesterday: “It has been a true privilege to serve as the BTA’s CEO.
“I am incredibly proud of what our team and industry stakeholders have accomplished collaboratively and in a relatively short period.
“I remain very positive about the growth potential of Bermuda tourism with the investment we have stimulated.
“Personally, I’m now looking forward to new opportunities and challenges and am confident this is the right decision.
“The BTA is in a strong position with a superb team of hard-working people dedicated to the industry’s future.”
The BTA said yesterday that Mr Dallas would step down “to pursue opportunities in the private sector”.
The other members of the senior executive team will take over the leadership on a temporary basis as the authority’s board searches for a replacement.
Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, signalled in the Budget Statement last Friday that a restructure of the BTA “to focus more directly on its sales and marketing role” was on the cards.
He told MPs: “BTA data for 2018 versus 2019 indicate that cruise visitors are up 14 per cent while air arrivals are down 6 per cent.”
Mr Dickinson added: “Bermuda tourism works best for Bermudians and Bermudian businesses when air arrivals are up and hotels are full.”
Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, said a week earlier that he was unhappy with the 2019 statistics.
He added then: “Some changes are coming. I want to lay down a marker tonight.”
Mr DeSilva said the independent authority’s founding legislation, drawn up by the former One Bermuda Alliance government, meant “the minister can only do so much”.
Stephen Todd, the BTA board’s deputy chairman, insisted that Mr Dallas’s departure did not have “any direct relevance” to the ministers’ statements.
He added: “I believe what needs to take place now is a discussion and we have not as yet had the benefit, as a board, to sit down with the minister and gain some understanding of what may be planned.
“Essentially, the board is working on an as-you-were basis and nothing has changed in our day-to-day operations.”
Mr Todd explained that the board had “recent discussions” with Mr Dallas and his departure timetable was agreed on Tuesday.
He added that he accepted “this may have come as somewhat of a short-notice notification to the general community”, but said that the board had worked with Mr Dallas on the matter.
Mr Todd said that Mr Dallas had performed “an exceptional job for Bermuda”.
He admitted that in an “ideal situation” someone else would have been ready to step into Mr Dallas’s shoes.
Mr Todd added: “Ideally we would love to have another Bermudian, if there’s someone out there that’s suitably qualified and has the vision to move our tourism product forward.
“We’re going to be hoping to cast the net quite wide to ensure that we attract the very best candidate.”
Paul Telford, the BTA board chairman, said earlier: “Kevin has been a strong asset and we are extremely grateful for his significant contribution.
“During his tenure, he was responsible for notable milestones, including development and implementation of the new National Tourism Plan, the arrival of Disney Cruises, and executing host venue partnerships for Bermuda with the America’s Cup, World Triathlon Series, United States Tennis Association, Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and the PGA Tour.”
He added: “Kevin’s dynamism will be missed, however, we are confident the path he established will continue to drive the authority forward.
“The board remains committed to supporting the seasoned BTA leadership team in that effort.”
The BTA highlighted that Mr Dallas had led the five-year-old authority through “a period of tourism resurgence on the island that saw record numbers of total vacationers over the last three years and the second-highest number of leisure air arrivals since 2006 last year”.
Mr DeSilva said: “I have very much appreciated Kevin’s strategic thinking and data-driven approach to the challenging task of revitalising Bermuda tourism.
“Kevin’s unvarnished assessment of situations and quick focus on solutions has helped the authority progress during his tenure. I wish him every success in the future.”
Leah Scott, the shadow tourism minister, said yesterday she was “saddened and extremely disappointed” to hear of Mr Dallas’s resignation.
She added: “It is my view that Kevin has done a wonderful job firmly affixing Bermuda as a premier tourist destination.
“Kevin was named a 2018 Travel Vanguard by AFAR magazine and highlighted as being only one of the nine individuals ‘harnessing the power of travel to make a difference in the world’.
“Under Kevin’s leadership, Bermuda broke previous on-island visitor records, resulting in increased on-island spending.”
The BTA was unveiled in December 2013 as a shot in the arm for the struggling tourism sector.
Hints of greater ministerial control over the body came at the end of 2017 when the Progressive Labour Party government moved to reduce the independence of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission, which sparked the resignation of Alan Dunch as chairman.
Jamahl Simmons, then the tourism minister, warned that a similar amendment could be made to the Bermuda Tourism Authority Act if the quango ceased to have a “mutually respectful relationship” with the legislature.
He said: “It must be understood the tail will not wag the dog in this government.”
Legislation was tabled in November 2018 to give the tourism minister the power to give the BTA board “directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance by the board of its functions”.
The amendments, brought by Mr DeSilva soon after his appointment as tourism and transport minister, also allowed the minister to appoint the BTA’s board members and its deputy chairman.
They sparked concerns at the time from Ms Scott, the Opposition’s deputy leader, who asked if the move might have been “the Government’s first step in creating an exit strategy for Mr Dallas”.
Ms Scott pointed out that Mr Dallas had asked the Senate to reject a Bill replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships in December 2017 because it was an “unnecessary threat to the success of our tourism industry”.
Mr Dallas’s comments sparked a reprimand from Mr Simmons, who he said had acted without the approval of Mr Telford and the BTA board.
Tourist numbers and spending 2014-19
Kevin Dallas became the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Tourism Authority in January 2017.
The statistics, published on the BTA website, are for the three years before and after his appointment
Air visitors: 224,380
Air — vacation: 141,509
Cruise passengers: 355,880
Total visitors: 584,457
Total visitor spending: $316.1m
Air visitors: 219,814
Air — vacation: 140,087
Cruise passengers: 377,398
Total visitors: 600,261
Total visitor spending: $304.3m
Air visitors: 244,491
Air — vacation: 164,321
Cruise passengers: 397,904
Total visitors: 646,465
Total visitor spending: $358.4m
Air visitors: 269,576
Air — vacation: 182,439
Cruise passengers: 418,049
Total visitors: 692,947
Total visitor spending: $431m
Air visitors: 281,887
Air — vacation: 203,697
Cruise passengers: 484,339
Total visitors: 770,683
Total visitor spending: $505.3m
Air visitors: 269,478
Air — vacation: 191,417
Cruise passengers: 535,561
Total visitors: 808,242
Total visitor spending: $518.5m
MPs’ Blu party under investigation
Third US arrival tests positive for virus
Starwood rejects Caroline Bay funding claim
Covid-19: cases are pandemic “wake-up call”
More flights on the way from British Airways
Mother’s appeal over missing son
Take Our Poll