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Disappointing delay

News in today’s

Royal Gazette that the Tourism “master plan” will not be ready until the early months of next year is deeply disappointing.

That’s because the delays show that there is a still belief in Government that it is business as usual for tourism, and not that this is an industry that needs urgent help now.

It is disappointing because many of the solutions to the problems in tourism are obvious. It is disappointing because the planning for 2012 should be happening now. They cannot wait until the early months of next year. In fact, 2011 can be discounted as a lost year.

To some degree, Bermuda has been lucky. while it has done almost nothing to improve the product, visitor arrivals have edged up and spending has increased, even if the Department of Tourism’s own tourism spending figures are not worth the paper they are written on.

But that has almost nothing to do with Bermuda’s own efforts. It has everything to do with the slight improvement in the US economy a recovery that now looks in danger. In the meantime, Bermuda has no advertising agency and no marketing strategy. There is no clear sense of whom Bermuda plans to market to and why.

And the danger signs are there. This newspaper always gave credit to former Premier and Tourism Minister Ewart Brown for bringing more airlines to Bermuda. But JetBlue is now reducing its lift, as has WestJet, which improved traffic out of Canada, which should be a prime market for Bermuda due to the strength of its economy and currency.

And in the meantime, there is little to report on hotel development. Plans for the Park Hyatt in St George’s are now before the Development Applications Board, but there is still no final word on financing.

In St George’s, it is now certain there will be no dedicated cruise ship. When cruise lines plan their schedules years in advance, the Transport and Tourism Ministries should be scouring the world for a small ship to serve the town. Instead there is only silence.

These are the bare bones of a tourism strategy. There is more, of course. But the idea that the strategy should wait until next year is ludicrous and unnecessary. In war, it is said that no battle plan survives the first shots being fired and the same is true of almost any plan. Whatever plan is devised will need to be modified and changed depending on events.

But the basic principles of identifying the best markets for Bermuda, controlling costs and providing a high quality experience that capitalises on the beauty and calm of the Island, coupled with the friendliness of the people, does not change.

But that foundation needs to be built on. Bermudian Tim Terceira, who received the enormous professional plaudit of opening the first Ritz Carlton in Toronto, said the basis of everything that famous hotel chain does is service to the guests. Bermuda needs to do the same.

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Published August 23, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 23, 2011 at 10:10 am)

Disappointing delay

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