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New Bermuda Tourism Board announced

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The Board of Tourism has been disbanded in favour of a new body with statutory decision-making powers, Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert announced yesterday.

While the legislation creating The Bermuda Tourism Board will be tabled in the next Parliamentary session, Minister Furbert said it will start working effective April 1 and will be autonomous.

The news was met with some scepticism by both opposition parties which described it as a step in the right direction which did not go far enough.

The Board's term is expected to be longer than a year but the exact length has not yet been specified. Its chairman, and eight of the members, will be appointed by the Minister. Five members will be appointed by the Bermuda Hotel Association. The other members will be the President of the Bermuda Industrial Union, the Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce and, in an ex officio capacity, the Director of Tourism and Global Operations, the Airport General Manager and the CEO of the Bermuda Hotel Association.

Asked how his role as Minister will change, Mr Furbert said that he will be “focusing on high net worth individuals for tourism and international business” and he will be responsible for making the Board accountable.

Mr Furbert said at a press conference announcing the new Board that while it will be autonomous, it differs in a number of aspects from the Tourism Authority concept advanced by the One Bermuda Alliance.

“One key difference is that they had talked about that the Governor shall appoint the members,” he said. “They had talked about the members pledging allegiance I don't know to who, but I had the vision of them running around a campfire pledging allegiance to somebody.”

He added that the OBA wanted their Tourism Authority to be funded by the hospitality industry. But “our idea is that the business is not healthy enough for the full implementation of funding by hospitality and the Government must get involved.”

The Minister agreed that he had promoted a Tourism Authority when he was in the Opposition but he said the new Tourism Board is precisely what he had in mind.

“He can twist that history all he wants today, but the history is the history,” said Shadow Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell in a statement reacting to the news.

The development is in keeping with a recommendation by the current Tourism board which has agreed to resign, said the Minister.

“With the recommendation, came a new Board structure. Because of this, they all agreed to resign to allow the process to take place,” Mr Furbert said in his prepared remarks.

“They all still remain committed to assist wherever needed. For continuity some of the members will serve under the new structure.”

The members of the new Board are: Chairman, Maxwell Burgess, ruling party backbencher Randy Horton Senator Vincent Ingham, Michelle Cox, Isabelle Ramsey, Selena Lambert, John Jefferis, Kevin Bean, Daniel Reece, Muriel Richardson, George Terpilowski, Michael Winfield, David Dodwell and Edward Shapard.

“Their total responsibility will become clearer once the legislation is laid before Parliament, but in the meantime they will be charged with the responsibility of the Sales, Marketing and Promotion of Bermuda as a Tourism Destination,” Minister Furbert said.

“They will in addition be responsible for the implementation of the five to ten year National Tourism Plan. I have no doubt, with the experience that is on the Board, and the desire to see a change in the growth of the Tourism Industry in Bermuda, we are about to see the dawning of a new age.

“It is time to look forward; negativity must be a thing of the past, we have become the change. I emphasise we have become the change. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

The Minister added that the group had a lot of expertise and experience in the hospitality industry. And he referred to the Bermuda Alliance for Tourism spearheaded by the former Tourism Minister the late David Allen as the “beginning of looking into how to make this thing work”.

“We've taken from 1999 until now to really put the teeth behind it.”

Mr Furbert would not be drawn into how often the Board would meet or what should be its first priority saying those decisions are for the Board to make.

“Their job is to make sure things are happening and we will judge them accordingly.”

Mr Crockwell said that the move appeared to be a step in the right direction but the OBA could not comment conclusively until the body's powers were made clear.

While he welcomed the inclusion of the Bermuda Hotel Association, he criticised the fact that the Minister appoints nine members a majority of the new body.

“Its work will still be tied to political oversight that has so completely failed the business needs of Bermuda Tourism and all the job opportunities that that entails,” he said.

And he reiterated his party's call for a Tourism Authority.

“Mr Furbert tries hard to disparage our call for a Tourism Authority. We only note that he once unreservedly supported the formation of one, not just in his specific call for one as Leader of the United Bermuda Party but also when he was a UBP Government minister. He can twist that history all he wants today, but the history is the history,” he said.

“For the record, our call for a Tourism Authority was echoed by the very Tourism Board Mr. Furbert disbanded earlier today. His Cabinet colleagues clearly do not support the formation of one so this is a major point of distinction between the OBA and the PLP.”

Mr Swan said the reform was a step in the right direction but “given the failure by government itself in Tourism and its contribution to the policies which helped to get Bermuda in this deep economic hole, this announcement does little to get government out of its own way.

“Hence, we must question this move as a half step to pacify a political need to show change instead of the bold step required to truly empower industry stakeholders.”

He, too, reiterated the call for a Tourism Authority “where industry stakeholders and not government, directed the path for the rejuvenation of the tourism industry”.

“Failed tourism in Bermuda needs drastic reform and autonomous direction by a diversity of industry stakeholders leading the way not a modified version of the same system.

“This announcement appears only a halfway house solution for Tourism an industry that once was the primary bread winner for our country's economy now contributes less than 10% to our GDP.”

He said: “Clearly, it is now a given that tourism policy generated by well meaning politicians has failed Bermuda miserably.

“The United Bermuda Party's version of a Tourism Authority encompasses some of what the Minister is espousing but our vision would go further and empower a Statutory Board or Authority by giving them the mandate to determine their Chairman or Co-Chair, the composition, input on staffing and discretion over the marketing budget.

“Our aim would be to encourage the mindset of private industry to lead us out of this economic hole and put our focus on hotel bound air arrivals whilst ensuring our on island product and services were of the highest quality.”

Mr Swan also questioned whether the legislation will be tabled before the next election.

“Notwithstanding, as this matter must come before Parliament it is our hope that the Minister and his government colleagues remain open minded to our (UBP) recommendations and the need for amendments, based on the content in the Minister's press announcement, to find a model that can best serve the introduction of a Board with real authority.”

Minister of Business Development and Tourism, the Hon. Wayne Furbert JP, MP, revealed the new Tourism Board at a press conference yesterday.(Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 30, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 30, 2012 at 9:06 am)

New Bermuda Tourism Board announced

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