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New tourism master plan is delayed

The National Tourism Plan has been delayed until the new year with Tourism Minister Patrice Minors vowing to “leave no stone unturned”.

The long-term master plan, which was originally due to be completed this summer then delayed until October, has now been pushed back to “the early months of next year”.

Ms Minors insists the extra time is needed to draw up the report, which aims to detail everything that needs to happen in tourism over the next five to ten years.

She said: “We are now looking at January or February.

“It has taken longer than expected … We want to make sure it is a comprehensive document with no holes in it.”

It is understood that talks are in place to bring in an overseas consultant to write the blueprint for the future of the industry at a cost of about $1 million.

But Ms Minors would only say: “That's a process we are looking at right now. Nothing has been decided yet.”

In a wide-ranging interview with

The Royal Gazette, Ms Minors spoke about her dream for a conference centre to attract large business groups to the Island. She also said she was working to improve public transportation and better promote hotels struggling to fill their rooms.

In recent years tourism has suffered from the closure of hotels and guest houses, as well as a decline in tourist numbers.

Ms Minors said: “If I could I would love to snap my fingers to make a conference centre appear in Bermuda. It would be a great addition to our tourism product.

“All hotels would benefit from business events, not just those hotels that have the capacity to host meetings.

“It's definitely something that's on my wishlist but it would be ignorant of me to think this could happen in these economic times.”

Ms Minors insists a more realistic plan is working with and improving “the dialogue” with the Ministry of Transport. She said: “It's important to guarantee a visitor's experience is a pleasant one” when travelling by bus of ferry.

Ms Minors also believes taxi and minivan drivers could “fill in the gaps” of bus and ferry timetables as they have “a wealth of knowledge” and are “perfect ambassadors”.

Every two weeks Ms Minors “does the rounds” by visiting a new hotel or guest houses to look around and meet staff.

The Tourism Minister now hopes to reclassify guest houses and smaller properties as boutique hotels to make them “sound more appealing” to overseas visitors. The Department of Tourism will then carry out a promotional campaign to sell them.

Ms Minors said Government also remained committed to matching funds of $750,000 through its marketing partnership with hotels. A total of 17 hotels are part of the Tourism Fund which sees them handing over an additional 2.25 percent of their occupancy tax for overseas promotions.

Ms Minors said the scheme, run through the Bermuda Alliance for Tourism, includes free night promotions and gives smaller hotels “the chance to have a voice”.

She says she is inundated with letters from residents and tourists who suggest “a little something that could be improved”.

She said the next few months would see “lots of exciting ways to boost tourism numbers”, but refused to give any more details.

Ms Minors is this week showing her appreciation to Bermuda's repeat guests by inviting them to a thank-you event at Camden. She hopes to hear their stories on why they return to Bermuda.

She remains a firm believer that Bermuda has a positive overseas reputation despite the rise in gun crime and murders.

Ms Minors said: “I really think the crime increase in Bermuda is insignificant when you look at other tourist destinations.

“Bermuda remains a gem, with the main selling points being our friendliness and welcoming spirit.”

Ms Minors described her first ten months as Business Development and Tourism Minister as “exciting and interesting” but admitted the new post had been a “steep learning curve”.

She said: “I think I have done quite well thus far. There are still areas I am learning in, but for the most part the comments I have received show that I am doing a good job.”

Ms Minors praised the Premier for linking Business Development and Tourism in the same Ministry, saying they remain “the two pillars of our economy”.

She believes there is a “natural synergy” between the two areas with “one benefiting the other”. She said she hopes those who come to Bermuda on business trips can be encouraged to return as tourists with their families.

Ms Minors currently works in banking, but says she also has hospitality experience, having worked as a waitress at Sonesta and The Reefs.

She believes it is important for everyone to play a part in the tourism industry by making people feel welcome.

And she urged everyone to “improve our customer service”, insisting that being friendly and welcoming should be instilled into children at a young age.

Ms Minors would also like to see more young people entering the hospitality industry and “aiming for the top jobs”.

She said: “I appreciate that most people look towards international business, but if young people get to know the hospitality industry, they will hopefully get a thirst for more.

“We shouldn't just think of hospitality as waiters and chefs, our young people should be aiming to be hotel managers.”

Tourism Minister Patrice Minors

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Published August 23, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 23, 2011 at 9:29 am)

New tourism master plan is delayed

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