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MPs clash on creation of a Tourism Authority

The idea of a Tourism Authority reared its head again in parliament yesterday as Opposition members insisted it would do a better job at managing the industry.

Interim leader of the United Bermuda Party Kim Swan said that a Tourism Authority for Bermuda was overdue.

“It involves the Government, it involves the private industry, involves the people that work in the industry. It empowers the country better than having politics drive tourism.

“And that is no disrespect to the good people working in the industry now. It’s just the right thing to do for an awful long time,” Mr Swan said.

Backbencher Walter Lister dismissed the idea as “half baked” and said that the tourism department was staffed by professionals.

“Would we get the same quality of people in this Tourism Authority and who would they respond to in parliament?

“Who would they be responsible for? All of these things have not been thought through,” he said.

The One Bermuda Alliance’s Patricia Gordon-Pamplin noted a dramatic $121 million decline in visitor spending between 2007 and 2010.

“That has got to be painful when one looks at an attempt to put effort in to one of our major pillars of our economy,” she said.

“And it is based on that, that the recommendation has come fervently and furiously for the creation of a Tourism Authority.”

She said that the intent was not to fire civil servants but to get better results.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin referred to what she said was criticism of Bermuda as a destination for the “newly wed and the nearly dead”.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the Government has rejected out of hand the idea of a Tourism Authority.”

She pointed to Hawaii which is implementing a ten year plan for its tourism but noted that Bermuda’s plan for 2012 would not be completed until after the end of the season.

“The things that we want now should have been put in place a long time before now.”

Ms Gordon-Pamplin also noted that the Government had announced a number of developments that had failed to materialise.

And she questioned whether any of the 88 million viewers of the PGA Grand Slam had been converted to visitors.

“It is more important to defend Bermuda than it is to defend poor Government policies,” she said.

“It’s important because the people of Bermuda’s livelihood depends on a robust economy. And as a result of the failures in the tourism industry we’re not getting it.”

Referring to the Minister, she said: “The plan respecting the Tourism Authority is the very one that his board suggested that he do.”

Ms Gordon-Pamplin commended the Minister’s idea that Bermudians be the ones to sell Bermuda.

“You can’t use anybody else to sell Bermuda than Bermudians. Because we have a vested interest.”

And she backed the idea of using the Grand Atlantic condominiums for tourist accommodations.

Charles Swan also backed the idea of a Tourism Authority and said that tourism must be run in a businesslike manner.

And he called on the Minister to set targets for numbers of visitors from different countries.

Bob Richards, the Shadow Finance Minister stressed that a Tourism Authority would “take the temporary and ego maniacal element out of it and it gets tourism to be run like a business”.

He said: “It was a good idea when the Hotel Association recommended it. It was a good idea when the Tourism Board recommended it and it was a good idea when the Honourable Member (the Tourism Minister) used to recommend it. It’s still a good idea.

“The model of a jet setting Minister promoting Bermuda around the world is obsolete. It’s antediluvian. Such a Minister is like a pterodactyl, a flying dinosaur.”

He noted a number of “debacles” in tourism which would be done away with, with a Tourism Authority.

“There has been no accountability, nobody has been sanctioned. So we could get rid of all of that by having a Tourism Authority where people who are in the Tourism Authority are held accountable not just by the Government but by the industry.”

Mr Richards added: “It’s amazing to me that a Minister who was once upon a time for it, as soon as he becomes a pterodactyl all of a sudden he’s not for it.”

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Published March 15, 2012 at 9:52 am (Updated March 15, 2012 at 9:52 am)

MPs clash on creation of a Tourism Authority

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