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Rethinking tourism

August 29. 2011

Dear Sir,

Regarding our concerns of Bermuda’s Tourism/Hospitality, an Industry of which I have a passion, there have been a lot of suggestions and ideas going forward.

Comments made recently by Senator Michael Dunkley, on a popular radio Talk Show interview, has motivated me to add my perspective and some historical facts that need consideration. Mentioned was the fact that Bermuda’s “brand” has been lost. I’ll elaborate later.

Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organisation defines tourists as people who “travel to and stay in places outside their usual environment for more than twenty-four (24) hours and not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited”.

Tourism has become a popular global leisure activity. In 2010, there were over 940 million international tourist arrivals, with a growth of 6.6 percent as compared to 2009. As a result of the late-2000’s recession, international travel demand suffered a strong slowdown beginning in June 2008, with international tourism arrivals worldwide falling by two percent during the boreal summer months. This negative trend intensified during 2009, exacerbated in some countries due to the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, resulting in a worldwide decline of four percent in 2009 to 880 million international tourists arrivals, and an estimated six percent decline in international tourism receipts.

Wealthy people have always travelled to distant parts of the world, to see great buildings, works of art, experience new cultures and to taste different cuisine. There has been an up-market trend in the tourism over the last few decades, especially in Europe, where international travel for short breaks is common. Tourists have high levels of (disposable income), considerable leisure time, are well educated, and have sophisticated tastes. There is now a demand for better quality products, which has resulted in a fragmenting of the mass market for beach vacations; people want more specialised versions, quieter resorts, family-oriented holidays or niche market-targeted destination hotels.

This said, leads me back to paragraph two (2), Bermuda ‘Brand’, and the concept of ‘Supply and Demand’. The definition of such, from an economic perspective: the relationship between the availability of a good or service and the need or desire or it among consumers. We were once “prided” on our uniqueness. The mere fact that “Bermuda is another world” has been lost. Tourists loved our hospitality the friendliness, our unpretentiousness, treating guests as our own, in addition to the natural beauty and amenities.

Are we now comprising the core values, morals and principals of our ‘Brand’, by succumbing to the pressures of an over zealous imposing product like the rest of the world? There is an old adage, “being popular is not necessarily right, and being right is not necessarily popular”. Therefore, I feel we need to once again “differentiate” ourselves from the competition! Why not revert to the guest houses and smaller properties that proved successful in years gone by, where we had those interpersonal relationships?

I can’t go any further without mentioning price. With the ever increasing discerning traveller, ‘more bang for the buck’ is paramount. Acknowledging our limited resources, quantity vs. quality, comes into play. However, we need to revisit our profit margins, short-term vs long-term. This concept, regarding the Island economy re: the “trickle-down effect”, has been proven in the past. Many more residents benefitted, subsequently contributed the economy at large.

Therefore, all the talk of casinos to regenerate tourism needs re-consideration. There are casinos all over the world, and at destinations with lower rates. Once again, there’s another adage, “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it”.

I acknowledge the fact that our ‘mainstay’ of the economy (International Business) has determined the ‘market-value’ across the board, yet we need to strike a balance, or make a determined effort and decide if Tourism is vital to the well being of the majority of Bermudians and residents, going forward.

GLENN CHASE

City of Hamilton

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Published September 01, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm)

Rethinking tourism

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