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Record year for Bermuda tourism

Proud of results: Kevin Dallas, BTA chief executive (Photograph by Paul Johnston)

A record number of visitors came to Bermuda last year.

Kevin Dallas, chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, revealed yesterday that almost 693,000 tourists visited the island in 2017, but he feels there is more work still to be done.

He said: “We talk about the resurgence of tourism a lot, and we talk about how far we have to go, but it is worth reflecting that is the most visitors Bermuda has ever had in a single year.

“We all have a lot to be proud of and pleased about in these numbers, but they are still not good enough.”

Leisure spending by air and cruise passengers was up 20 per cent to $320 million from $266.6 million in 2016.

Leisure air arrivals went up by 11 per cent, hotel occupancy was up 9 per cent, and cruise spending rose 7.6 per cent.

Visitor spending, which includes business travellers, rose to $431 million last year, up more than $72 million on the previous year.

Mr Dallas said: “That is an incredible result.”

Leisure air arrivals from Canada were up 19 per cent on 2016, with arrivals from Boston up 16 per cent.

Arrivals from New York rose by just 3 per cent.

Mr Dallas added that about 83 per cent of the growth in leisure air arrivals last year came from tourists aged under 45.

He explained: “Almost all of our growth is coming from younger visitors. In particular, the sweet spot seems to be young professionals, folks who we have called adventure seekers and experience enthusiasts, who are in their twenties and thirties and are looking for something different than their parents’ vacation.”

Mr Dallas was speaking as he unveiled the 2017 year-end tourism numbers at Newstead Belmont Hills in Paget.

Mr Dallas also spotlighted the growth market for private vacation rentals.

He said: “People worry a lot about the growth of vacation rental and what it means for hoteliers. The good news is that with a growing pie, there’s a bigger share for everyone.”

Mr Dallas said that the number of Airbnb listings on the island doubled last year.

He added: “This is an area where we still see enormous opportunity and we still see room for growth. We see that more Bermudians could participate in the tourism economy by opening their homes to visitors.”

He said that a rewrite of the National Tourism Plan in the first half of this year would help make the coming years even better.

Mr Dallas added: “It’s about what direction we collectively want to take tourism in and how we all pull in the same direction to achieve that.”

He told industry figures: “It is not a plan only for the BTA, so your input and your guidance when we develop that document and that tool will be critical.”

Mr Dallas said that New York-based firm Red Sky would act as consultants on the document.