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Swan heartened by tourism stats

Former Shadow Tourism Minister Kim Swan said he is encouraged by the latest visitor arrival statistics — despite numbers dropping by more than 12 percent over last year.

Mr Swan, who spoke on tourism issues as an Opposition MP, made his remarks after it was revealed that 210,964 tourists visited Bermuda in the second quarter of this year — down from 240,538 for the same period last year.

The former United Bermuda Party leader pointed out that the drop was due largely to a reduction in the number of scheduled cruise ship visits to the Island and was more than compensated for by a massive increase in hotel occupancy rates. Bed nights for all commercial properties rose from 267,518 in the second quarter of 2012 to 366,982 this year — an increase of more than 99,000 or 37 percent.

Accusing the former Progressive Labour Party Government of becoming “over-reliant” on cruise passengers to boost arrival figures, Mr Swan said: “The latest tourism results contain a positive attribute that needs to be focused and built on to enable Bermuda to grow our tourism industry.

“Today Bermuda Tourism needs greater on-Island expenditure that helps our balance of payments. Bermuda needs to increase air arrivals to get more heads in beds to grow visitor expenditure, and an increase in visitor bed nights helps to achieve that objective.

“Because the drop in numbers is largely cruise visitors because of logical cancellations, it should not greatly concern the public because the PLP Government allowed the country to become over-reliant on cruise passengers. The PLP Government got the balance wrong, playing the numbers game and chasing more visitors for a markedly less return.”

Mr Swan added that data suggests that visitors staying in hotels, cottages and private homes spend six times more than cruise visitors.

“So 40,000 new air arrivals would pump the same amount of money into the Bermuda economy as 400,000 cruise visitors,” he said.

“Increasing visitor stays on Island drastically increases foreign currency in circulation in Bermuda and benefits more Bermudians.”

Mr Swan said he was also heartened by figures that showed that more guests were staying in private homes — up from 167,286 in 2012 to 201,774 this year.

“Necessity is the mother of invention and this statistic shows that Bermudian families have re-entered the tourism business,” he said.

“That bodes well going forward as I know of several examples of families who are to promoting their available rental units to potential visitors.

“The innate friendliness of our Bermudian people has long been considered one of our best resources. This statistic indicates the potential for us to increase our bed stock through vacation home rentals by local residents.”

Mr Swan said there was also potential for further growth in the industry because the off-season shoulder months could be exploited to bring in more arrivals.

“To rebuild the tourism industry we need to focus now on January, February, March and April 2014 where the opportunity for growth exists,” he said.

“Our peak months have dwindled to four or five months so the real opportunity exist in the enlarging our off season.”

Last night John Harvey of the Bermuda Hotel Association confirmed that hoteliers had reported strong booking figures for the second quarter.

“BHA member properties did enjoy improvements in their occupancies for the months of May and June and a slight increase for July,” he said.

“Current forecast going forward indicate that we will end 2013 very much the same as 2012, however efforts continue to be made with our partners in the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Board to cause an improvement in our visitor arrivals for the remainder of the year and beyond.

“I believe that most folks continue to recognise that the air visitor contributes more to our Island economy than cruise visitors”.

Kim Swan: Sees good news in the latest tourism statistics

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Published August 21, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated August 21, 2013 at 10:17 am)

Swan heartened by tourism stats

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