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Visitor numbers fall in first quarter

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Visitor arrivals for the first three months of 2013 were down almost four percent on the year before, according to the latest statistics.

At a press conference yesterday Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell revealed that Bermuda played host to 33,256 tourists during the first quarter, compared to 34,571 during the same period in 2012 — a drop of 1,315 or 3.95 percent.

A decrease in the number of cruise passengers was responsible for the bulk of the overall decline. Although three ships visited Bermuda in the first quarters of both 2012 and 2013, those vessels brought in just 1,214 passengers this year, down 45 percent on last year when almost 2,700 passengers arrived.

Air arrivals for the first quarter also dipped, down 319 or one percent on 2012. A total of 31,300 visitors arrived by air to the Island, compared to 31,619 visitors in the first quarter of 2012.

On a positive note, the number of yachtsmen calling in on Bermuda in the first three months of the year more than doubled from 2012 — from 233 to 472.

Air arrivals from the UK, Europe and US all increased, but there was a 14 percent decline in the number of visitors from Canada, which Mr Crockwell said was likely caused by a reduction in flights by airlines WestJet and Air Canada.

And while the number of people coming to Bermuda on vacation or to visit friends increased, there was a slump in the number of convention travellers — down 52 percent — and the number of business travellers fell by four percent.

But while arrivals were down, hotels recorded a better start to this year than last, with occupancy rates increasing.

“The average visitor stayed in Bermuda for 6.36 nights, up from 5.92 nights,” Mr Crockwell said.

“Visitors staying in commercial properties were also up from 4.73 nights to 4.86 nights in the first quarter. The increase in length of stay in our hotels resulted in a seven percent rise in beds occupied for the period.”

Asked for his reaction to the figures, Mr Crockwell said he was “not surprised”.

“But we are buoyed by what we see coming this summer,” he added.

“We were not surprised by the results of the first quarter but we are encouraged going forward and the next time I come before you I think it will be very positive.

“It is very obvious that the meetings and convention market requires our strong and immediate attention. It is for that reason that we are making an all-out push to reach this business sector through an aggressive new marketing campaign.

“This is just one of the areas that we need to address and I can assure you that this administration has left no stone unturned, nor any opportunity wasted, to find ways to strengthen our tourism industry.”

Mr Crockwell added that there had been some “very positive pick-up” for summer bookings, with the total number of rooms booked for the next six months up by eight percent on the same time last year.

The Minister then listed a catalogue of initiatives the Ministry had launched since the start of the year in an “aggressive campaign to drive visitors to our Island”.

He said the Island was given major coverage in online publications of the Boston Globe, New York Times and the Daily Telegraph. A ‘Pink Sale’ campaign “generated a tremendous amount of interest”, with website visits up 288 percent on 2012.

“In order to thrive, we have to keep driving forward with a singular vision for success,” Mr Crockwell said.

“We need to focus on finding ways to communicate to consumers that, among all the many choices they have around the globe in which to vacation, Bermuda should be on the top of their list. This includes a rich and diverse culture, a friendly and welcoming people, hotels that provide world-class service and facilities, dining options that satisfy their desire for the finer things in life, convenient and accessible transportation, and entertainment and activities that keep them engaged while here.

“We need to showcase that we offer ‘so much more’. But there is so much more work to do. Our Government is not satisfied and won’t be until we see the kind of sustained growth that will lead to a sound and thriving industry for the benefit of all of our people.

“The great American football coach Vince Lombardi once said, ‘The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will’.

“And Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal, and nothing on Earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude’.

“We have the will, and we have the attitude to make this Island a success. And I feel we have the talent and ability to achieve that success. Quite simply, failure is not an option.”

This morning Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert issued a statement which said: “Q1 Tourism Arrival Statistics while disappointing, should come as no surprise to those who understand the structural, competitive and economic challenges facing our tourism product.

“With this understanding, the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party refuses to embrace the malicious and destructive tactics that have historically shaped the Tourism debate. Instead, we will work with the government to restore Bermuda's tourism industry as a job creator, money maker and a legitimate source of advancement opportunities for Bermudians.

“Despite these numbers, there are signs that the National Tourism Plan started under the PLP is having some positive results. We encourage the OBA to follow through with the plan as we believe that its successful execution is key to turning things around.

“We are curious however about the apparent lack of progress made by the Tourism Authority. With the professionals in place and an often repeated desire by the OBA to run tourism like a business, it was expected that by now the Minister would be playing a less prominent role and that the TA would be driving the Tourism Plan. The Tourism Board has complete control of Marketing and promoting Bermuda yet we have heard virtually nothing from them on how they intend to take Bermuda forward.”

Minister of Tourism & Transport Shawn Crockwell held a press conference yesterday to discuss the first quarter visitor arrivals. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell
<B>Marathon Weekend brought in $1m</B>

Visitor arrival figures were down for the first quarter of 2013, but Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell was still able to point to some industry highlights during the first three months of the year.

Mr Crockwell noted that the Bermuda Marathon Weekend event in January brought in 900 athletes who spent almost $1 million during the athletics extravaganza.

Another event at the start of the year, the Bermuda Regional Bridge Tournament, attracted a further 300 visitors who spent $250,000 during their stay.

“Bermuda was highly promoted through both social and traditional media outlets and planning has already begun to make next year’s events even better,” Mr Crockwell said.

Restaurant Week, during which diners could experience special prix fixe menus at 36 eateries, resulted in “positive feedback from participating restaurants”, while Love Month, held between January 21 and March 3, saw “solid participation in all events”.

Spring Break was another initiative hailed as a success by Mr Crockwell.

“With an additional week of the Spring Break promotion, Bermuda saw 430 students — up from 250 students in 2012,” he said.

Other schemes designed to bring in visitors include the Sizzling Summer Free Visitor Activities programme, which began in May, and the return of Bermuda Nights and Barr’s Bay Park, which kicked off this month. Bermuda will also host the Marion to Bermuda Race, the Bermuda Fly Fishing Invitational, the International Light Tackle Tournament and the Bermuda Release Cup this month.

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Published June 11, 2013 at 11:00 am (Updated June 11, 2013 at 11:23 am)

Visitor numbers fall in first quarter

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