Bermuda’s deep cultural heritage highlighted
Bermuda's rich culture and heritage has drawn hundreds of specialist travel planners to the island.
The 32nd Educational Travel Consortium Conference, the first to be held outside of the United States, is being held at the Fairmont Southampton.
Mara Delli Priscoli, founder of the ETC, said the group wanted to take advantage of Bermuda's untapped cultural appeal.
She said: “I know you have a lot of US visitors, but our group has guests from all over the world who travel extensively. Many had not been to Bermuda.”
Ms Delli Priscoli added that the organisation is using Bermuda as the launch pad for a new initiative designed to focus on learning through travel.
She said: “We will have several learning labs, pushing deep into the culture here because the group I represent plan very specialised trips to lifelong learners.
“They are the National Trust, the Smithsonian, universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford and a lot of the state universities.
“It's exciting to have my colleagues here, and they are all so impressed.”
Conference organisers have put together a series of learning labs over the next week with visits to areas ranging from Dockyard to Court Street in Hamilton to learn about Bermudian culture.
Ms Delli Priscoli said: “What we are talking about here is getting in depth and talking to people, understanding a culture from the person-to-person point of view.
“I know that this is where travel is heading in the future so I'm excited to be here. Bermuda has a very rich culture. You could come back here three or four times.
“We got some resistance, with people saying Bermuda is a beach resort but we are coming to learn how to take travel beyond the beach because this group does not want the beach. They really wanted to dig deep.”
The ETC's brochure for the conference highlighted Bermuda's history and renewed focus on cultural tourism.
It said: “With four centuries of colonial history, strong ties to US history and an iconic Unesco World Heritage Site, Bermuda is now charged with redefining its sense of place beyond beaches to deepening its cultural and heritage exposé.
“This mandate perfectly aligns with ETC's mission to find ways to spark reflection, ignite innovation in conference programming and to deepen educational experiences for affinity travellers.”
Rick Spurling, chairman of Heritage Bermuda, said the group has worked with the ETC and the BTA over the past two years to organise a range of cultural events.
He said: “We have been working to develop a wonderful community dinner at Fourways on Wednesday. This will consist of a number of Bermuda artists, including a number of historical Bermuda characters.
“The other thing we are working on are seminars on wheels, tours of Hamilton, Dockyard, St George and St David's.
“These are in-depth educational experiences where they will learn as much as possible about Bermuda's culture and history.”
Kevin Dallas, chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said the weeklong event could do much more than provide a short-term boost to tourism.
He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Bermuda, not just because it brings business to us in February when we really need it, but because this represents a business-to-business opportunity for Bermuda.
“The 300 delegates that are here this week are all travel planners. These are people that book educational, experiential travel, and they are exactly the type of people who we want to know Bermuda, to understand Bermuda and to bring visitors back to Bermuda.”