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Individual travellers provide upturn for BTA

A new report by the Bermuda Tourism Authority has revealed that a bookings spike for individual travellers to the Island is making up for a slump in the group travel segment.

According to a monthly hotel room nights analysis, individual hotel room bookings are up by 9.8 per cent, while group travel bookings are down by 13.8 per cent over the next 12 months.

“This is why you’ve heard us use phrases like ‘on the right track’,” said report author Glenn Jones, the BTA’s director of public and stakeholder relations. “Individual travellers is one number the BTA can impact materially in the short term and it is clearly impacting that number in a positive way.”

According to a BTA statement, statistics show that its sales and marketing strategies have helped generate more individual hotel room nights for the island, but to fill the hole left on the group side of business, it must generate more growth in the second half of 2015.

“If we could get group business for 2015 that would solve everything because it means thousands of air visitors and hotel room nights,” Mr Jones said. “But it’s too late to grow the group number materially in 2015.

“The main aim now is to win more individual vacationers to fill the gap. These travellers, on average, book 45 to 60 days out and are the target of new marketing efforts, which began in November.”

Mr Jones added that a rise of 10 per cent in individual bookings over the next year suggests that the new marketing is working.

For this year, individual leisure and business air visitors are forecast to represent 82 per cent of all hotel room nights sold, while group travel is expected to represent 18 per cent, and the goal is to balance those numbers better for 2016.

“As our new report explains, when group business like corporate meetings is secured, it takes 12 to 36 months before that group flies to the island. So the lacklustre group performance we see in 2015 is as a result of sales contracts secured, or not secured, up to three years ago,” said Mr Jones, who added that group travel is defined as a minimum of ten rooms per night.

The report, titled “Group Travel: Where We Are and Where We’re Going”, was distributed electronically to hundreds of tourism industry stakeholders in a monthly bulletin.

It provided information on the group travel sales process and explained the strategies the Tourism Authority has implemented to improve the market segment’s performance.

The strategies include a new sales partnership with Associated Luxury Hotels International, a realignment of business development managers in North America, and a refocus of sales strategies from travel agents in geographic regions to vertical group business categories.

“The reorganised sales team is structured specifically to develop new business opportunities, uncover new leads and convert new bookings for Bermuda,” chief sales and marketing officer Victoria Isley said.

“By focusing on respective categories that align with Bermuda’s product, the BTA will be able to truly meet the needs of group customers whether they’re looking at a destination wedding, a corporate leadership summit or a sports training retreat.”

The BTA’s report maintains that a strong performance in group business leads to a successful year for the entire industry and not just the host hotels; area attractions, transportation providers, event planners, restaurants and others in the tourism value chain benefit when there is a thriving group segment.

The full report is available on the BTA’s website at www.gotobermuda.com.