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‘Bermuda calling’ marketing ploy a big hit

A quirky piece of experimental marketing involving the Bermuda Tourism Authority and JetBlue Airways drew hearty applause from a roomful of business executives.

They were reacting to an online video that showed pedestrians in New York City answering a ringing telephone in the street and being offered a free trip to Bermuda.

The “Bermuda Calling” video was devised by JetBlue in co-operation with the BTA and has been viewed by an estimated audience of hundreds of thousands through YouTube and JetBlue's social media platforms.

The campaign ran during the summer. Members of the Association of Bermuda International Companies were shown the video by Kevin Dallas, CEO of the BTA, who was guest speaker at Abic's annual meeting.

Featuring squeals of delight from passers-by who stopped to answer the ringing phone, which was attached to a vacant storefront, the video campaign attracted positive tourism media coverage in the US.

Mr Dallas said: “It went out online on all of JetBlue's social media channels and YouTube, where it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people. This is a great example of integrated marketing.”

The video was an example of the new ways the island is being marketed, both by the BTA and by outside companies with an interest in bringing customers to the island.

Mr Dallas explained the different ways the BTA has been marketing Bermuda, and the success that has been achieved.

He said it had decided the Bermuda brand should reflect the island's people and what it is to be an authentic Bermudian, and “a more modern and refreshed version of ourselves”.

It was about selling the island “more as a lifestyle brand rather than purely as a destination”.

Mr Dallas said: “The way in which we sell the Bermudian brand, the way in which we tell the Bermuda story, is through real Bermudian stories.

“It is often through Bermuda's spokespeople that we are telling the Bermuda story, rather than flashy marketing.”

The BTA has focused its attention on gateway cities, such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Toronto.

Mentioning that the organisation is operating on roughly half of the budget once given to the Ministry of Tourism, Mr Dallas said: “Out of strategy and necessity we focus where we have the highest ROI [return on investment].”

Air arrivals are up 11 per cent on the year to date, while visitor spending is up 22 per cent.

“That's an extra $40 million coming from leisure visitors, and over $50 million if you count all visitor arrivals. That's roughly 1 per cent of GDP.”

He said 90 per cent of that growth was from visitors under the age of 45.

However, Mr Dallas would like to see hotel occupancy, currently on track to be in the low 60s per cent for the year, reach the 70 mark in order to be “true investment grade territory.”

He said that was one reason the BTA is grateful for the Bermuda Government bringing forward the Tourism Investment Act ahead of the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit, which was held on the island earlier this month.

A number of the BTA's short TV commercial's promoting Bermuda to audiences in the northeast US were shown to Abir members. Mr Dallas said the videos were deliberately intriguing and with an air of mystic in order to draw the curious to the Bermuda tourism website, where the aim was to convert them into future visitors of the island.

Looking ahead, he spoke about the tourism-centred events planned for 2018, including the hosting of a ITU World Triathlon event in April, which is being promoted with assistance from Bermuda's reigning ITU World Champion Flora Duffy.

And while acknowledging that Bermuda is about much more than sailing, he said that post-America's Cup, the island has “a lot of inbound opportunity in the sailing world”.

One of those opportunities will come in 2019, when Bermuda hosts the World Conference of Sailing — which brings together the world's sailing organisations.

“It is a fantastic thing for us to have because the people who decide where the regattas are for every class of boat out there will be here, so we can show them Bermuda and sell them Bermuda for their events,” said Mr Dallas.

“And this event, when they are here, will be the first time they have a regatta alongside the meeting.”

Mr Dallas added: “We know that Bermuda has not had the broad community engagement that we want to have. But we're delighted there are Bermudians out there in the world of sailing.

“In particular Emily Nagel, who is on a Volvo Ocean Racing Team. And the BTA and XL Catlin have partnered to sponsor Mustafa Ingham to go as well. He is at the Volvo Ocean Race Academy. We are hoping he gets the certification to sail the last couple of legs of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“We think that's a good story internationally for Bermuda, it's an important vehicle for building community engagement, having people follow and get excited about Mustafa's journey, and Emily's.”

Summer success: a woman reacts to being offered a trip to Bermuda after picking up a ringing phone in a New York City street. The video marketing campaign by JetBlue Airways, in conjunction with the Bermuda Tourism Authority, was seen by “hundreds of thousands” of viewers on JetBlue's social media platforms and YouTube

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Published November 22, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated November 21, 2017 at 7:31 pm)

‘Bermuda calling’ marketing ploy a big hit

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