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Efforts to modernise Island’s tourism image

The latest tourism arrival figures may be down, but the Bermuda Tourism Authority is doggedly selling the Island for future visitors, according to its chief sales and marketing officer.

“Through the first six months of the year, the BTA's sales and marketing efforts have directly influenced $18.1 million in visitor and group spending,” Victoria Isley told The Royal Gazette.

Bermuda has fallen off the radar for the majority of prospective visitors overseas, she said, posing a challenge for the BTA to generate new narratives to sell the Bermuda experience.

Whereas the Island once prompted a wealth of mental connections for would-be visitors, nowadays many people planning their holidays think of Bermuda as “the place that their grandmother went for her honeymoon”. In courting future travel, the authority has been able to track the spending through “promotions, bookings via gotobermuda.com or future group bookings”, Ms Isley said.

She pointed to efforts to rebrand the Island such as a partnership with Nadia Aly, founder of the magazine Scuba Diver Life, who was recently brought to the Island to create a four-minute video showcasing the Island.

“In one week, that video got 100,000 views and 313 shares,” Ms Isley said.

“Nadia got 50 inquiries from people who want to come to Bermuda next year.”

The remarks came as the BTA refuted an accusation from Zane DeSilva, the Shadow Minister of Tourism, that it had spent on in-house bonuses at the expense of advertising Bermuda overseas.

Karla Lacey, the BTA's chief operating officer, said that the organisation's budget allocation for compensation was less than 20 per cent — well below the best-practice axiom that compensation should not exceed 33 per cent of budget.

“In government, for example, salaries and benefits typically make up 50 per cent of the budget, or about one half,” Ms Lacey added.

Along with arresting the Island's slumping air arrivals and reversing its outdated image, the BTA has focused on “creating the Bermuda story” and getting visitors to buy into it, Ms Isley said.

“We're focusing on matching Bermuda's authentic experiences with the consumer's desire — what's that authentic Bermuda connection that's different from anywhere else?”

She said that one of the Island's unique selling points could be seen in the second-quarter tourism statistics showing revenue rising by seven per cent even as air arrivals marginally dropped.

“At the end of the day, what we want to do is get city sophisticates, who like to spend money on ‘me' time, to feel that Bermuda is a place for them right now, and show them what proper fun is,” Ms Isley said, referring to a campaign launched in December 2014.

The Proper Fun initiative targeted the British leisure market before moving on to video clips, golf promotion and the New York market.

“Proper Fun is not just a tag line; it presents Bermuda as a proper playground, a safe and friendly place for people to go and explore,” Ms Isley said. “That's a difference with Bermuda as a location. Visitors aren't just staying in the hotel. It's safe to rent mopeds and go out and have an adventure.”

Social media and internet campaigns have featured heavily, but Ms Isley said it had not usurped traditional advertising or retail offers such as a third or fourth night free in a hotel.

“It's social at the core — I would not say it's using social media as the lead. No one can comment on a print ad, but you can have a conversation with social media.”

The North American “Selfie Yourself to Bermuda” campaign promoting Gosling's rum got 573 entrants and 380 opt-ins, she said, while the BTA's promotions at the America's Cup races in Portsmouth connected thousands of prospective tourists to Bermuda.

Ms Isley pointed to public relations efforts such as the visit by singer and model Solange Knowles, sister of star Beyoncé, whose pictures on Instagram quickly made their way into the media.

That trip, which the BTA sponsored, was orchestrated in tandem with local fashion consultant Shiona Turini.

“It very naturally built some third-party credibility for Bermuda. We were in the background, and we're happy to be in the background.

“It's better, more authentic, to have people sharing their experiences.”

Other campaigns aimed at getting Bermuda into the “travel dreams” of potential visitors, include linking the Island to “summer Fridays” — when American workers get an early start on a weekend holiday.

Targeting gateway cities at the East Coast, the campaign pushes Bermuda's proximity by plane.

Ms Isley said it was 87 days from the first selection of a destination to a visitor's actual arrival, and 56 days from the booking of a hotel — meaning the BTA was constantly looking ahead.

“Just today, it was announced that the Nike Golf Team Championship in Canada is coming here in October,” she said. “Another one on our sales team signed a group for October 2016 for 1,250 room nights.”

Building the year-round experiences to entice tourists even entails researching water and air temperatures — and marketing little-known features like the springtime whale watching.

Staying the course: Bill Hanbury, BTA chief executive officer, and Karla Lacey, BTA chief operations officer, at this week's press conference when second-quarter tourism figures were announced (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 21, 2015 at 10:07 am)

Efforts to modernise Island’s tourism image

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