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Top sport event in the works for 2018

Another major international sporting event with a profile as large as the America's Cup could be heading to Bermuda within two years.

Bill Hanbury, the CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said yesterday: “It looks like we may do a global event in April 2018 that will generate as much exposure in many regards as America's Cup.”

Mr Hanbury, who was speaking at a Bermuda Chamber of Commerce round table gathering, said he could not give details about the possible event yet, but he noted that it could have a three-year impact, supporting the island's tourism numbers through to 2020.

He further revealed that talks are under way to bring a “major” sailing regatta to Bermuda in 2018 in the wake of the island's hosting of next year's America's Cup. “From a sailing perspective, we have been able to commandeer extra sailing events thanks to the increased attention due to the America's Cup,” he said. “There is another major regatta for 2018 that will be announced in the next couple of weeks.”

During the round table discussion about the latest upbeat tourism figures, Mr Hanbury said he was personally bullish about the future of the industry, citing increasing arrival numbers and hotel occupancy rates so far this year along with positive forecasts.

With the 11 per cent increase in tourism air arrivals so far this year and forecasts of a further 13 to 14 per cent increase in 2017, Mr Hanbury said the island could record a 25 per cent increase in just two years with the potential of further growth after that.

“It's all very encouraging,” he said. “It's really good, and it's no longer an anomaly. It's no longer a glitch. It's a trend. We are no longer cautiously optimistic. We are just optimistic.

Specifically noting the forecast tourism number for the coming year, he said: “I have been doing this for 30 years in some dynamic destinations.

“I have never seen future numbers as significant as this.”

Mr Hanbury noted an additional 3,515 tourists flew to the island this year compared to the same period in 2015 — an increase of 17.4 per cent — while the number of cruise visitors increased by 5 per cent.

“It's hard to go up 5 per cent in cruise visitors because we are pretty much at capacity, but we did it,” he said. Mr Hanbury also noted that advanced numbers for the coming fall and winter were positive, saying the BTA have seen “really solid” numbers for the period between October and December, along with “astronomical” numbers for January, February and March.

“We are 100 per cent up from where we were last year in some of those months,” he said, explaining that a part of the boost was due to advanced preparations for the America's Cup.

“Numbers are very, very positive for the shoulder season this year.”

He told the chamber that the 7.6 per cent increase in air lift to the island had played a role in the boost in air arrivals and, while the loss of the United Airlines flight out of Newark during the winter months was disappointing, he added: “It was important, but it's not a disaster.

“There will be an announcement of another flight out of another destination very important to us.” Mr Hanbury noted that the BTA received harsh criticism in past years, saying that while the body might have been able to get results sooner by moving faster, they wanted to focus on creating a sustainable boost rather than something short lived.

And he said the efforts at bringing younger travellers and families to the island had paid off, noting a 25 per cent increase in younger visitors.

“We are assuming that they will come back again and again because from what we see in the surveys, they are having positive experiences,” he said.

Bill Hanbury, Bermuda Tourism Authority's chief executive officer. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 01, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated October 01, 2016 at 1:30 am)

Top sport event in the works for 2018

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