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Nearly half of residents against BTA funding

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Almost half of residents disapprove of the spending granted to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, according to a phone poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette.

The Global Research survey found 49 per cent of people were against the Bermuda Government’s spending on the Authority, with 38 per cent in favour and 13 per cent unsure.

The backing of the BTA, an independent body set up last year to revive the Island’s flagging tourism, has stood as a persistent red flag for Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell. Details of compensation packages awarded to its top executives have been repeatedly demanded by the Opposition, while a query by broadcaster ZBM under the Public Access to Information Act was turned down.

The Authority’s annual report, released last month, showed that chief executive officer Bill Hanbury took in a salary of between $225,000 to $295,000 last year with a “performance incentive payout” of between $31,000 to $88,000.

Salaries for directors range from $130,000 to $150,000 for Bermuda-based staff and $115,000 to $130,000 for out-of-island employees. Bonuses in that department ranged from $14,000 to $16,000.

Ten per cent of survey respondents said they strongly approved of the Government’s financial support for the BTA, and a further 28 per cent “somewhat” approved; 25 per cent said they somewhat disapprove, and 24 per cent said they strongly disapprove.

A breakdown by race and age showed whites and elderly people were most likely to approve of the Government’s financial support. The approval rating from whites was 53 per cent, compared with 29 per cent from blacks.

Meanwhile, 51 per cent of people aged over 65 gave approval, compared with 27 per cent of people aged between 18 and 34.

As part of our survey, voters were also asked to explain the reasoning behind their responses.

Those who put their faith behind the investment emphasised the need for quality professionals, with one commenting: “You want the best, you have to pay for the best.”

Another added: “The money is not the problem — it’s how they use it that matters.”

For opponents of the BTA spending, the second comment has been a sticking point: Shadow Minister Zane DeSilva and others in the Progressive Labour Party have been sharply critical of bonuses, in the face of what they called lacklustre spending on advertising the Island.

Respondents who were against the spending questioned the value for money, particularly in view of the Island’s debt levels, saying they had yet to see any returns.

Others queried why an organisation intended to be entrepreneurial and independent would need government money in the first place.

One remarked: “Bonuses? Really? Marketing surveys for a fish sandwich?” Meanwhile, a respondent who described themselves as “somewhat” disapproved commented: “They need to spend on the people, not take from us.”

The survey targeted 403 people of 18 and older, from August 31 to September 6, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 per cent.