Call for hotels to make staycations affordable
Staycations could help to support Bermuda's hard-hit hotels — but experts said residents would need to be persuaded.
Peter Everson, an economist, said there could be people interested in a holiday at home instead of overseas as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continued.
But he added that the hotel industry would need to promote the idea with special offers.
Mr Everson said: “There are possibilities, but it has to be positively encouraged by the hotel industry.
“It is up to the hotels to put together packages and deals that will get our residents to spend locally.”
He was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, said in a Facebook conversation on Thursday that Bermuda residents spent more than $300 million a year on foreign travel — cash that could be used to help prop up the island's tourism industry.
Mr Everson predicted that some of the money earmarked for travel would now be spent by households to help make ends meet because of the financial turmoil wreaked by Covid-19.
However, he said there were a lot of wealthy white-collar workers and international business professionals who would still have disposable income.
Mr Everson added: “They probably represent quite a big portion of the ‘well-heeled' people, as it were, so there are certainly people who will be able to afford to go to a Bermuda resort.”
Mr Everson said lower rates may help attract residents, but he suggested that hotels could join forces with other operators such as tour guides and boat rental companies to create special packages for guests.
He added: “There is a possibility, but it's not driven as much by economy as it is by appetite and what the Bermuda hotels can do to make people really excited.”
Glenn Jones, the interim chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said that staycations had been only a small part of the island's hotel business in the past.
However, he added: “If ever there was a time to change that, this could be it.
“Plus, residents' spending on staycations and the associated food and beverage and amenities have the added advantage of getting workers off unemployment benefits and back on the job.”
Mr Jones said the BTA was working with the tourism sector to help attract domestic business until the island could throw open its borders to overseas visitors.
He added: “Our inside-out marketing approach goes beyond just hotels.
“Since this crisis began, the BTA team has worked to support a variety of tourism-related small businesses — mom-and-pop tourism businesses are where a lot of the magic happens for visitors, so there's a pressing need to protect their viability.
“These businesses are crucial to travellers and are equally worthy of our community's support now and when things normalise.”
Stephen Todd, the head of the Bermuda Hotel Association, agreed Bermuda residents traditionally represent a small, but steady, part of hotel business.
He added: “Percentage-wise, it is usually in the low double digits on an annual basis, but it's important for us because some locals do enjoy getting away from the regular day-to-day.
“It is an attractive alternative for some people who don't want to plan an overseas vacation.”
Mr Todd said the ability to attract residents to hotels may be affected by precautions needed to ensure the safety of guests.
He explained: “I believe the hotels could make efforts to attract local guests, but the question is how attractive is it going to be for a local resident if they still have to socially distance themselves and wear personal protective equipment?”
Mr Todd said he was not sure if residents would have the disposable income to splurge on a staycation in the near future.
He added: “I don't think it's going to be high on anybody's list right now.”
Mr Todd said hotels had reduced room rates in the past and could do the same again, but that the hotels would need to work out how to cover their costs.