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Bermuda needs stronger tourism brand identity, say BA executives

Bermuda needs to rediscover itself if it is going to succeed in an increasingly competitive tourism market, British Airways executives Simon Brooks and Keith Chuter believe.

Mr Brooks, the airline’s head of sales for the US, also pointed to the emergence of new destinations in the East, and the continued improvement of established destinations closer to home, as reasons why the Island needed to refocus its energies on its own product.

For Mr Chuter, the issue of brand recognition, or rather a lack of one, played a significant part in Bermuda’s troubles, as did poor organisation locally and he also questioned whether the Island gave its visitors value for money.

The pair were in Bermuda last week for the Hackers Cup, a golf event which BA have heavily sponsored, and Mr Brooks said the sport could be a good base from which to start improving tourism. However, he qualified that by saying the sport must be one of several things used to attract customers.

“Bermuda needs to work out what it is to UK and European travellers. I think golf is an excellent opportunity … whether it’s golf, whether it’s weddings, whether it’s top-end vacations, there needs to be a number of leavers to get people to travel from Europe, to here,” said Mr Brooks.

“When you look at the golfing public in the UK, people with that sort of expenditure will travel abroad a couple of times a year. And, actually, if we get our pricing right, they don’t need to be going to Spain and Portugal, they can be looking further afield and I think golf is a good vehicle for that.”

The underlying message from the pair however is that Bermuda needs to get its act together when it comes to organisation, infrastructure and value for money. While Bermuda has always had to compete with the likes of St Lucia, new markets are putting it under pressure from across the globe.

“Bermuda is up against healthy competition from a lot of the Caribbean islands, places like Florida and the Carolinas. Golf is great as a lever, but the product needs to be really enticing,” said Mr Brooks.

“You’ve got to figure out what you are, and Bermuda has also got to realise, clearly it’s not the Caribbean, but it is up against places like Barbados and St Lucia, and those islands that are close enough [to the UK]. But there are also great products springing up in the East as well. We’ve just started flying to Sri Lanka, down to the Maldives, to some great holiday destinations going the other way as well.

“The hotel product, and the actual offering when people get down here needs to be top-notch, because it isn’t the cheapest place to come.”

Mr Chuter, meanwhile, who is based at Heathrow and is BA’s sales manager (Specialised Markets), believes a lack of organisation and co-operation within the hospitality industry locally, as well as Bermuda’s poor brand recognition abroad, are the main reasons the Island has struggled as a destination recently.

He also thinks that the Island isn’t targeting the right people, and while the older generation know about Bermuda, those he terms “affluent indulgers” don’t.

“There’s always been the assumption that people know Bermuda is here,” he said. “And for some it always has been, but we have a new generation of very young, single guys, who work in the City, all live in Canary Wharf, money’s not a problem, they just don’t know about this place.”

In a bid to increase Bermuda’s profile in the UK, the Department of Tourism and BA, will be taking their message on the road this week, visiting London, Manchester, and Birmingham, with a roadshow highlighting the Island’s many qualities.

There will also be a “companion stays free” offer, and an attempt to market Bermuda as part of a two-centre destination package, linking it with New York. The idea being that people travel to shop in New York and then come and relax in Bermuda.

Getting the message out there is just half the battle, the Island needs to do its bit too, and the hotels, restaurants, ferries, bike rentals, in fact, every aspect of the hospitality industry, needs to start giving value for money.

“Everyone needs to work together, the hotels, the tourist board, the golf courses, they all have to talk,” he said. “Travellers want to get to a destination where everything can be done for them. If you use golf as an example there needs to be the ability to stay in Fairmont and have access to Port Royal, Tucker’s Point etc.

“The product needs to be value for money.”

British Airways: The London link

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Published April 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 16, 2013 at 1:02 am)

Bermuda needs stronger tourism brand identity, say BA executives

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