Scott: wheels are off’ BTA after Dallas quits
An Opposition politician claimed that the “wheels are off” the island’s tourism organisation after its chief executive quit the job.
Leah Scott added that the results produced by the Bermuda Tourism Authority proved Kevin Dallas had the expertise to boost visitor numbers.
She was speaking after the BTA board said on Wednesday that Mr Dallas would leave his post today after three years in the job.
Ms Scott, the One Bermuda Alliance deputy leader, highlighted a House of Assembly sitting 15 months ago when MPs debated the Bermuda Tourism Authority Amendment Act 2018.
She said that Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, referred to the former OBA finance minister Bob Richards, who said that the party’s first job was “to find out what’s under the hood” after it won power in 2012.
Mr DeSilva told MPs in November 2018: “This minister turns over stones. Bob Richards who lifted up the hood ... I’m pulling the car apart. I am going to tear that engine apart.”
Ms Scott, the shadow tourism, transport and regulatory affairs minister, said: “Well, the car is up on blocks and the wheels have been taken off. Let’s see how far the BTA rolls now.
“I have stated previously that, in my opinion, interference with the administration of the BTA will counteract economic and social enhancement.
“Just look at what happened when the then Minister of Tourism, Jamahl Simmons, spearheaded the legislation that compromised the independence of the Casino Gaming Commission.
“We now have a behemoth that we, the taxpayers, continue to fund, to the tune of millions of dollars, while the chance of a qualified executive director being hired or of having gaming proceeds administered by any banking institution is slim to none.
“The model of a tourism department being used as an extension of the whims and desires of the minister of the day failed in years gone by.
“It is for this very reason that the BTA was established as an independent body.”
Ms Scott added: “Let those who have the skills and expertise in the area of tourism, do what they do.
“Kevin Dallas did it well and Bermuda has the statistics and the revenue to prove it.”
The BTA board said that the authority’s chief executive would step down to “pursue opportunities in the private sector”.
The organisation added: “The BTA’s senior executive team will carry out interim leadership duties, while the BTA board launches a robust executive search for a new CEO for the organisation.”
Ms Scott said that she was “saddened and extremely disappointed” to hear about Mr Dallas’s resignation, which was announced days after Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, revealed in his Budget Statement that a restructure of the BTA “to focus more directly on its sales and marketing role” was on the cards.
Mr DeSilva warned “changes” were in the offing a week earlier.
Stephen Todd, the BTA board’s deputy chairman, insisted on Wednesday that Mr Dallas’s departure did not have “any direct relevance” to the ministers’ statements.
The legislative amendments in late 2018 allowed the tourism minister to give the BTA board “directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance by the board of its functions”.
They also allowed the minister to appoint the BTA’s board members and its deputy chairman.
Hints of greater ministerial control over quangos 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.
Mr DeSilva wished Mr Dallas “every success in the future” earlier this week and said he appreciated his “strategic thinking and data-driven approach to the challenging task of revitalising Bermuda tourism”.
The minister did not respond to a request for comment on Ms Scott’s statement.
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