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Hanbury denies DeSilva bonus accusation

Bill Hanbury

Zane DeSilva, the Shadow Minister of Tourism, has accused Bill Hanbury of being in line for another bonus.

However, the Bermuda Tourism Authority chief executive said that an “inappropriately circulated” copy of his contract was being used for incorrect information.

“The copy of the document that they have is not my contract — it’s an early generation of a contract that is not valid,” Mr Hanbury told The Royal Gazette. “That provision was taken out 11 months ago.”

Mr Hanbury expressed dismay over the continuing criticism of his pay, pointing out that he had chosen to reveal his salary in February.

His remarks came after Mr DeSilva said: “If my allegation is off base, then they should prove me wrong and show us his contract. If it’s not true, I will apologise.”

The Progressive Labour Party MP added: “I don’t have any problem with bonuses or with CEOs making big bucks. In the business world, some CEOs will make $1 million or $5 million a year. But it’s all based on performance.

“Last year we had our worst air arrivals in 48 years. This year has been worse. Sooner or later you’re going to hit the bottom. These guys continue to say we’re making progress, but any time you look, the numbers are worse.”

Mr DeSilva conceded that “there have been many ministers over the last 25 years that have had challenges”, but maintained that the BTA was putting much of its efforts in the wrong direction.

“They’re trying to push Bermudian culture with cliff diving and fish sandwiches,” he said, “but I don’t know if that’s going to do it, especially through social media.”

Mr DeSilva said that if he were in charge of tourism for the Island, “the first thing I would do is increase advertising by $10 million to $20 million — I’d go to $30 million or $40 million if I could.

“I would look at all the major networks. I was in New Jersey over the weekend, turned on the television, and I saw advertising from Aruba, St Kitts, St Thomas, but I never saw Bermuda — people still don’t know where it is.”

He continued: “What’s disappointing is we have a Premier who says, along with his finance minister, that tourism is critical to our future, but then we cut its budget down to the lowest ever. It does not make sense.”

Mr Hanbury declined to comment on the authority’s advertising strategy.

The shadow minister spoke after a survey carried out by this newspaper showed nearly half of Bermuda residents saying they were against the spending granted to the BTA, with bonuses and “excessive salaries” topping their list of reasons.

Meanwhile, 38 per cent said they supported the BTA, saying that spending was required to boost an industry that was once a mainstay of the Bermuda economy.

Even as government funding for tourism is at a historical low of $21.7 million this year, visitor spending is on pace for a year-over-year increase of $5.8 million, according to a Bermuda Tourism Authority spokesman.

“That means the Bermuda economy is benefiting from the best tourism return on investment in decades,” the spokesman said.

“Assuming air visitor spending levels in the first half of the year are maintained in the second half of the year, the public’s return on investment will be almost 16 to one — every dollar of taxpayer money invested in the tourism budget, the economy gets $16 back via overall air visitor spending into the economy. Not even the recent boom years for air arrivals provided a return on investment as healthy as the tourism economy is experiencing now.”