Furbert: Hotel developers should be held to their deadlines
Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert signalled Government’s intention to get tough with hotel developers to deliver on what they are proposing and meet set deadlines.
Mr Furbert spoke to
The Royal Gazette about his plans to revive tourism, what mistakes may have been made in the past, and what progress has been made.
He said he plans to be a Tourism Minister who “thinks outside the box”, and well aware of the numerous past announcements concerning hotel developments that have never happened, Mr Furbert said he won’t be prematurely announcing new hotel deals.
Asked about the receivership of Newstead Belmont Hills and the level of debt carried by other resorts, Mr Furbert also appealed to lenders to be as understanding as possible about the challenging conditions properties were facing.
“Banks have to be a little more understanding going forward, while we get through this period,” Mr Furbert said, assuring, “things will get better. I know they (the banks) have to report to their shareholders, but I urge them also to work with the hotels.”
He answered more of our questions below.
What are the top five positives for Bermuda and our tourism product, in your opinion?
The completion and roll out of the National Tourism plan in approximately eight weeks is encouraging progress. Great work by the current Board of Tourism. A broad cross section of tourism stakeholders will be meeting and examining the first diagnostic report of the consultants this week (week of March 12).
A new advertising agency to be named shortly, will see new brand concepts for Bermuda in the very near future. Feel the Love has been the brand tagline for seven years, the agency will be tasked to come up with a fresh new look for all advertising.
Despite the very challenging economic environment Bermuda continues to maintain crucial air service from key gateway cities, especially in the all important North East. US Airways new Washington DC service and increased United/Continental flights from Newark for the season are good examples.
The Ministry is making very good progress in the formation of a new Act that will give statutory powers to the Tourism Board, and thus more say in decision making with advertising, marketing and sales spending.
Continued interest in Bermuda by prospective developers, despite the challenging economic environment.
What mistakes do you feel have been made in Tourism over the years, whether in marketing, or dealing with developers, or hoteliers?
One of the key mistakes regarding marketing has not been shouting loud enough about what has been happening. In my term as Minister I have been determined to share what I, and the team have been doing. There has been a tremendous amount of hard work that has been overshadowed by the negative stance of many Bermudians.
The industry depends almost entirely on BDOT to market and promote the industry. We had moved away somewhat from our primary role of marketing the destination and driving overall awareness, to supporting many tactical promotions of the hotels.
Communication to the stakeholders/hoteliers on BDOT’s work has not been as consistent as it should have been on occasion.
The key mistake, I believe, with our developers is that we have not given definitive deadlines for them to come up with their end of the bargain. This is not an indictment against anyone but there comes a time when everyone should have a reasonable amount of time to deliver what they are proposing, and everyone should have the ability to move on if plans don’t come to fruition.
What is your opinion of where we need to focus going forward in a) marketing Bermuda, and b) attracting new hotel/resort development that actually breaks ground?a) Bermuda must reestablish its unique and sophisticated brand in the marketplace.
It’s important that we continue to raise awareness in all our key markets while looking for new sources of business either by market or interest. We must know and own our visitor.
Distribution channels are constantly changing and it’s therefore imperative we can communicate with our consumers direct.
We must embrace the new technologies that are playing a huge role in transforming how travel is researched and bought. Smart phones will be the most important tool used by our customers in the next 10 years. Reaching them through this medium is vital.
b) We must continue to make it easier for any prospective developer, by streamlining the processes through relevant government departments. Having the Ministry of Business Development and Tourism as the pivotal communication point is key.
We must seek out new developers that have great track records of new developments and access to financial capital.
We have been working with developers and the union to bring down the cost of construction which is pivotal to building new hotels.
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