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Cruise ships boost visitor arrivals

Visitor arrivals have increased for the third quarter running, an “excited” Tourism Minister announced yesterday.

Wayne Furbert said that all visitor arrival segments had recorded an increase in numbers for the third quarter of 2011.

“Total visitor arrivals were up by 7.3 percent in July, 10.4 percent in August and despite several hurricane threats, up 56.8 percent in September,” said Mr Furbert.

“The majority of visitor arrivals stemmed from cruise visitors, the accumulated total arrivals for the months July, August and September increased by a staggering 17 percent year over year with 267,602 visitors touching the island’s shores during this period.”

Air arrival statistics were a bit more modest compared to the overall stats. Just 79,917 visitors came to Bermuda by air in the third quarter, a one percent increase over 2010. July and August remained constant but September logged a nine percent increase in air visitors. The majority of visitors were from the US, with a 77 percent share an increase of two percentage points.

“The year-to-date cumulative increase in visitors from the United States now stands at 5.5 percent,” the Minister continued.

“During this quarter, service from Canada was reduced by four flights per week compared to 2010. As a result, the percentage of visitors from Canada declined by two percentage points. Cumulative air visitors from Canada year to date are showing a decline of 2.6 percent.”

Flight schedule changes affected other markets. Airtran’s expansion of services increased the number of visitors from Maryland by more than 35 percent, and from Atlanta by 75 percent. Visitors from the UK declined one percentage point to nine percent of total visitors.

Those from the rest of the world increased by one percentage point to three percent, while the share of European visitors remained at three percent.

Visitor numbers from Washington DC fell by almost nine percent in the third quarter due to US Air changing its schedule from daily to twice weekly.

Mr Furbert yesterday informed the press that US Air will resume its daily Washington DC service between June and September 2012. Air arrivals from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey dropped by 16 percent, 14 percent and 16 percent respectively due to changes in flight schedules by JetBlue and Continental. Air visitors spent slightly less time on the Island than last year 6.35 nights as compared to 6.47 nights.

And the number of visitors staying in commercial properties increased by three percent. Meanwhile, the average number of nights stayed remained constant at 5.19. The ten largest hotels saw improved occupancy rates over the same period last year 88 percent in July, compared to 82 percent last year, 84 percent in August compared to 71 percent in 2010 and 54 percent in September compared to 53 percent in the previous year.

Mr Furbert noted that the number of convention visitors “soared” with an increase of 266 percent.

“Visitors who declared business and other reasons as their purpose of visit also increased by almost eight percent and 11 percent respectively, while those visiting friends and relatives declined by nearly six percent and leisure vacationers remained constant.”

The Minister went on to report that, with 187,487 visitors, the third quarter had seen the most cruise visitors in a single quarter. “This is a direct result of spreading out the cruise season,” he said. “By doing so, an additional three ships sailed to the Island in both July and August and an additional ten cruise ships called in the month of September when the season usually begins to slow down.”

Overall cruise visits for the quarter increased by 26 percent representing 70 percent of total visitor arrivals. There was a marginal increase in the number of yacht arrivals from 196 during the same period last year, to 198. Asked to respond to criticism that reintroducing College Weeks may not be feasible given the Island’s increased costs, Mr Furbert said that his Ministry was only targeting about 200 to 300 students and that participating hotels were working with the Ministry to offer.

“We have thousands of Bermudian students out there in college and they will be our marketing arm to help attract our friends here. And so, if we attract 200 to 300 students here, that’s great help to us,” he said.

“We are thankful to those participating hotels to make that happen.”

He noted that students did come here for sporting events.

The convention business increase, Mr Furbert said, may have depressed the overall numbers as a State Farm convention at Fairmont Southampton had taken up extra bed nights as well as impacted on air arrivals.

“The arrivals could be down during that time because they are not bringing people in,” Mr Furbert said.

“So we have a challenge to get more bed nights out there to increase the leisure visitors, and at the same time allowing these convention groups to operate in Bermuda. And we are working diligently to make that happen.”

He would not be drawn into commenting on new hotel developments.

“You will never see me stand in front of you and talk about hotels unless my Is are dotted and my Ts are crossed.

“All I can tell you is we are working around the clock to make some things happen, and in due course we will come back to you with some exciting news.”

Asked about the impact of the three cruise ship cancellations, Mr Furbert said that in spite of the cancellations, the number of cruise visitors are projected to be at least the same or more next year. “Instead of 349,000 this year, we are expecting 363,000,” he said.

Minister of Business Development and Tourism Wayne Furbert hosted a media briefing to discuss the Third Quarter Visitor Arrival Statistics.

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Published November 25, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated November 25, 2011 at 7:08 am)

Cruise ships boost visitor arrivals

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