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BTA warns tourism could take years to recover from Covid-19

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A slow return of tourism is predicted in a BTA report (File photograph)

It will take years for the tourism industry to recover from impact of the Covid-19 crisis, the Bermuda Tourism Authority warned yesterday.

The warning from Charles Jeffers II, the BTA’s chief executive officer, came despite predictions from some in the industry that the island would see a recovery to pre-pandemic levels as early as 2023.

Mr Jeffers said: “The stark reality is that a return to 2019 levels is not expected for the next few years.

“And, while the entire industry has endured a challenging environment since 2020, there is reason for optimism, particularly with news of changes to border protocols and growth in the European market.

“Our team has renewed our focus on generating group business opportunities. We’ve positioned ourselves as a smart choice for meeting planners from key markets and have seen a spike in interest in group business for 2022 and beyond. “

He was speaking as the authority unveiled its 2021 end-of-year tourism measures report.

The report said that the widespread take-up of vaccination saw the travel sector feel “the first ripples of a comeback”, but that a return to 2019 levels would be “slow”.

It added: “Although there was significant upward movement from 2020, the 2021 year-end statistics highlighted stark declines on crucial metrics compared to 2019 baseline figures.”

Business travel dropped by a massive 87 per cent against 2019 figures and was down more than third — 34 per cent — on 2020.

Airline service was down 59 per cent on 2019 — but up on 2020 figures.

The number of leisure air visitors was down 71 per cent compared with 2019 and spending by the segment slumped by 69 per cent to $122.57 million.

Cruise arrivals were virtually wiped out as they plummeted by 97 per cent.

Charles H Jeffers II, the chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (File photograph)

But the BTA said there were some glimmers of hope, despite the grim figures.

The report said the length of stay by leisure travellers increased by 27 per cent  to an average of 6.92 days compared with 2019.

Tourists who arrived by air also spent more per head — almost 14 per cent up on 2019 figures.

Super yacht visits also increased, up 6.5 per cent compared with 2020, when new legislation designed to promote the sector came into force.

The report added: “Over the past 12 months, a fluid public health situation meant that several high-profile events were postponed, repositioned or downsized.”

He added that the SailGP races had been held during a lockdown last April and the event pumped $5.7 million into the economy, despite the hospitality components being cancelled.

Mr Jeffers added that the World Triathlon Series event scheduled for Bermuda in 2021 had to be postponed as well because of a surge in Covid-19 cases last September.

Mr Jeffers said: “This year has tested our agility and resilience as an industry.

“We continue to collaborate with our stakeholders, hoteliers and island investors while we support initiatives that drive interest and bookings through media initiatives and sales promotions.

“We are focused on plotting a steady road to recovery and the outlook is promising.”

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Published February 19, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated February 22, 2022 at 9:55 am)

BTA warns tourism could take years to recover from Covid-19

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