Iconic structure a must for Hamilton waterfront - hotel boss
Hamilton's waterfront development needs to be an iconic structure that is seen on magazine covers across the world.
This is the view of Elbow Beach general manager Frank Stocek who wants people to instantly associate pictures of the multipurpose development with Bermuda.
The tourism veteran has high hopes of the new development raising the profile of the Island just as the Eiffel Tower has for Paris in France and the Opera House has for Sydney in Australia.
Government is continuing its talks with the Corporation of Hamilton and private partners to transform the waterfront to lure overseas visitors and create jobs. And Mr Stocek, who is well known for promoting the tourism industry, is now calling on tourism bosses to “make it happen” even though many people in Bermuda are “adverse to change”.
The waterfront development is set to include duty free shopping and entertainment including bars and nightclubs, under one roof. A casino, a performing arts venue and a small-scale convention centre are also being eyed up for the development.
The private-public partnership was mentioned in Friday's Throne Speech as a way to preserve the waterfront's “stunning beauty while creating a dynamic hub for business and entertainment”.
Mr Stocek, who is moving to Kuala Lumpur next month after about ten years in Bermuda, said: “The waterfront development is desperately needed. It's been a goal of many people for a long time
“It has to be an iconic structure that people look at and say 'That's Bermuda'.
“We need something to uniquely represent Bermuda and the image has to be on magazine covers around the world”.
Mr Stocek, who is also chairman of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said his only hope was that people didn't stand in the way of the waterfront development. He said it was “crucial” to save Bermuda's tourism, which has been suffering from hotel closures and a decline in visitor numbers.
Mr Stocek said: “People have to be ready to make the change. But unfortunately there are some people who have an aversion to change. Things have been so good for so long, they expect things to carry on like they are. But times are different now and it's a time of change.
“Bermuda is small and nimble enough to be able to keep up with the rest of the world. We have to make this happen”.
Mr Stocek said a casino would make Hamilton's waterfront development more attractive to more people, but he was quick to point out that gambling was “not the answer by itself”.
He said: “The waterfront development will be somewhere for everyone to congregate in one area. It will have everything under one roof. Bermuda has enough brainpower to make this work. But we just have to find the resources to make it happen … the sooner the better”.
Mr Stocek believes Bermuda's number one challenge is “trying to stretch the season out” by attracting visitors throughout the cooler months. He said there was no one simple solution, but he remained optimistic that Bermuda was heading in the right direction.
Mr Stocek said he had seen “a lot of passion” from Malcolm Butterfield and Vince Ingham who head up the Tourism Board and he believes the National Tourism Plan is “going well”.
He said: “It's not going to be an easy fix, but the Tourism Plan is a very good thing.
“All the right things are included in the plan, a lot of hard work has gone into it and it incorporates feedback from everyone. We know the issue is to create something to do in Bermuda when the weather is cold and rainy”.
Mr Stocek added: “We now need the Tourism Plan to be acted upon. I have no issue with it taking longer than expected, as long as we get it right and do it properly. We need a vision for the next ten years so we have something to work towards”.
Mr Stocek also suggests an independent Tourism Authority is “definitely something” that should be considered in Bermuda.
He said: “It works well elsewhere so we should try it. The single biggest benefit is that it takes tourism and runs it as a business. It takes any political aspect out of the picture.
“There have been so many changes in Ministers and directors of tourism and they all have different ideas so there's been no continuity. Instead of all these changes in direction, we need long-term branding for the Island so we can move forward”.
Mr Stocek would also like to see improvements to public transport and for Bermuda to “upgrade its golf product,” explaining that even though golf courses had been improved, the booking system needed additional work. However, he remains positive about Bermuda's ability to keep attracting visitors, saying the future of the hospitality industry “will be bright”.
He believes the key is to promote the “physical beauty, convenience and safety” of Bermuda, plus its proximity to the east coast of the US.
Mr Stocek said: “There is lots of energy among those in the industry and we are doing all the right things.
“We have made a good start … there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have to make the best of the product we have, Bermuda has some really, really strong components”.