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Replace ‘amateur’ Minister’s post with a Tourism Authority, MPs told

The Opposition would abolish the role of “amateur” Tourism Minister, encourage foreign capital for waterfront development, hold a referendum on casinos and implement a short-term marketing strategy to revive the second pillar of the economy.

Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards, in his reply to the Budget yesterday, claimed the Bermuda brand was broken due to a “government asleep at the wheel”.

He told the House of Assembly: “Bermuda’s once-great tourism industry is perhaps the best example of the Government’s failure to face up to national challenges that threaten Bermudian jobs and paycheques.”

He said the fact the Island recorded the second highest number of visitors in history last year was due to the number of cruise ship passengers and not an indication that “Bermuda was back to tourism industry greatness”.

“The Government has been playing the numbers game for years, using it as a screen to avoid the work needed to grow tourism industry jobs and income for the people of this Island,” claimed the One Bermuda Alliance MP.

“One has to assume its Ministers understood that something needed to be done. The year-to-year embarrassment of declining air visitor numbers and property closures should have told them that.

“But we also know that industry insiders told them point blank that the industry was in crisis and in need of major help.”

He said Government had operated for years without a national tourism plan and having one ready by spring this year, as promised in the Budget, was “not good enough”.

“To allow Bermuda tourism to drift for years without a plan, to let it operate for a year without an advertiser, are signs of a government asleep at the wheel,” Mr Richards told MPs.

“Where Bermuda needed foresight, engagement and decisive action, we got neglect, disengagement and complacency. As a result, the ability of this job-creating arm of our economy was allowed to shrink without a fight.”

He pledged his party would not allow the tourism industry to fail by:

n Implementing a short-term marketing plan to improve tourism this summer;

n Drafting a national tourism plan and making “decisions on resources and personnel necessary to get the job done”;

n Holding a referendum on casino gambling;

n Hosting a Bermuda Hospitality Investment Conference with “highly connected” attendees;

n Encouraging hotels with tax incentives to install modern electrical cogeneration plants in order for them to save money on energy bills;

n Encouraging foreign capital to redevelop the Hamilton and St. George’s waterfronts; and

n Creating a tourism authority.

Mr Richards said once the authority was set up the OBA would “abolish the Cabinet position known as Minister of Tourism”.

He added: “The fact of the matter is that the existing structure, led by amateurs, has simply not worked. We need to change the way we operate.

“Everything about the state of tourism today tells us that. We need to put Bermuda tourism into the hands of professionals: setting clear strategic objectives, meeting those objectives and, above all, being held accountable for their performance. Accountability. That’s what’s been missing for so long.

“It’s why the PLP Government allowed decline and drift to be the story of tourism for more than a decade. A Tourism Authority will help us put Bermuda first, ahead of egos, ahead of party, ahead of political pride.”

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Published March 03, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 03, 2012 at 6:36 am)

Replace ‘amateur’ Minister’s post with a Tourism Authority, MPs told

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