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Summit: social media key to reviving tourism

Bermuda must enter the 21st century to revitalise its tourism industry, the Bermuda Tourism Summit heard.

Information sessions such as ‘How to Wow Authentically', ‘The Social Session', and ‘What Millennials Want in Meetings and Events' indicated a need to embrace social media and marketing, with speakers all offering similar advice that suggests the Island's floundering industry may be stuck in a rut.

The panel included Shiona Turini, a fashion editor, consultant and advocate for the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and Mark Hranek, of Condé Nast Traveller, who assisted attendees in the pursuit of “clicks, shares and retweets” and offered tips on how they could augment their brand image.

Mr Hranek drove home the importance of “shaping stories” in today's industry and grasping new platforms such as Snapchat for “the next generation of consumer”.

“It just shows that you're relevant,” he said.

Mr Hranek dismissed former models that target senior travellers, saying: “In 2024, guess what? They're dead. You cannot ignore the relevance of the next generation as a customer.

“Don't assume that because you have this ‘old school' it will only appeal to the old school. Millennials are starved for authenticity.”

He said for him, the appeal of social media is that you can communicate directly with people.

“I love that engagement,” he said. “That engagement creates buzz and excitement and floods of great imagery.

“Instagram is not that far off from ‘click to buy'. The technology is there.”

If embraced early, the opportunity would be a game-changer, he said.

JP Lespinasse, chief marketing officer of mobile streaming app CÜR Music, said: “Even if you don't see the millennial paying you out of their pocket book, they might have had more of an influence in the decision-making than you realise.”

Mr Lespinasse asked for an “intelligible” representation of the Island, adding: “I don't know what fish is in the fishcakes. Or what's in the rum swizzle. Teach us how to do it. You love it. Make us love it too.”

Mr Lespinasse also urged businesses to activate followers as marketing agents.

Adopting the traditional attire of Bermuda shorts and long socks, Mr Hranek said: “This place has such rich history, amazing style, and it's so close. The heritage and storytelling here is so rich. I keep using that word, ‘stories'.”

Clifton Webb, a marketing executive with HSBC Bermuda, called for “authenticity and emotion”, saying: “It has its own look, feel, food, taste — its own people. I'm hesitant to tell people I live in paradise. Look at your business through the eyes of a visitor. Embrace that and share that.”

Michael Dunkley said it was imperative that we become a “top-of-mind destination for those who influence today's trends and market decisions”.

The Premier gave the keynote speech at the summit, at the Fairmont Southampton, and addressed the challenges of an industry he described as “critical to Bermuda”.

“It is an important economic driver and is a key employer of Bermudians in many different careers,” he said. “For many years tourism and international business have been referred to as the twin pillars of Bermuda's economy. This characterisation is more than just a statement of fact: it is a call to action.”

Leadership, he said, required innovation, flexibility and recognition to succeed, but added that the Island's tourism industry “fell short of the mark” in these regards.

“We ignored trends, changes in socio-economic demographics, and we did not pay attention to the advent of new competitors who improved what we invented,” he said.

“The lesson of a downturn or recession for business has been one of developing better business models, becoming more efficient with better customer service or you do not survive.

“The lesson for tourism following the decline of our fortunes is no different.

“We can no longer trade on what we were and hope to inspire a new generation of travellers for whom Bermuda represents ‘your grandmother's holiday'.

“Why is it that although we are just over 700 miles from New York and Boston or 90 minutes by plane, we cannot break the cycle of low air arrivals and a tourism economy shored up by cruise visitors?

“Is the answer to be found in increased budgets for marketing and advertising? Is the answer to be found in a market saturation strategy so that Bermuda is on every channel, every day, everywhere?

“We must be a choice for travellers again. Bermuda must be relevant to them and their lifestyles.

“We cannot achieve the revitalisation of tourism by reminding today's travellers why their parents and grandparents fell in love with Bermuda.

“We must make them fall in love with Bermuda for themselves.”

Vic Isley, the BTA's chief sales and marketing officer, also underlined the importance of “introducing Bermuda to a new generation of traveller”, again centred around “sharing your Bermuda stories”.

Moving forward: Bermuda's tourism industry was described as “critical” to the Island by Michael Dunkley, the Premier (File photograph)

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Published November 17, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated November 17, 2015 at 3:34 pm)

Summit: social media key to reviving tourism

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