DeSilva: no help from Skyport on marketing
The Minister of Tourism revealed yesterday that American Airlines had withdrawn one of its daily Bermuda flights and warned more could follow if airport operators Skyport did not back marketing efforts.
Mr DeSilva predicted that the number of aircraft touching down in Bermuda would decrease this year.
He said: “We now have an airport that is not run, not owned, not operated by us any more — it is operated by Skyport.
“I'm sure the Honourable Member, who was premier when he signed off on that agreement, surely recognises that Skyport is responsible for getting airlift and approving marketing incentives.
“If they don't support marketing incentives, we may lose a few more.”
Mr DeSilva was speaking as he replied to questions from Michael Dunkley, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, during the reply to the Budget in the House of Assembly.
But Mr Dunkley said that the government still had a “great deal of responsibility” for the numbers of air passengers who arrived in Bermuda.
He added: “If government wants to use the excuse that it is somebody else's problem that is a cop out.”
Mr DeSilva said parts of the airport deal were “atrocious” and that the public would be told about the details from the floor of the House.
Mr Dunkley also took aim at Mr DeSilva for comments he made while in Opposition about high salaries for some members of the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
He said: “I assume now that we haven't heard anything about that he believes that the compensation levels are fitting and appropriate.”
Mr DeSilva replied: “I chastised some of the executives of the BTA — it was at a time when we had the lowest number of visitors we had in, I think, 48 years.
“Someone making $400,000 a year doesn't phase me but you have got to perform.”
Government reduced its grant to the BTA from $26 million to $22.5 million in the Budget, but said that tax changes would mean the quango would get more money overall.
Part of the cash was expected to come from the introduction of new fees charged to cruise passengers.
Leah Scott, the Deputy Opposition Leader, said that the BTA had done an excellent job of increasing tourism numbers and that the body should remain independent.
Ms Scott highlighted a BTA report that said tourism had suffered from Bermuda's “culture of no” and asked for a progress report on the $200,000 report designed to boost the beach economy.
Mr DeSilva said Bermuda's beaches were an “untapped” source of revenue.
He added: “We all know there was a lot of fanfare over Shelly Bay Beach.
“We will look at continuing to do something on our beaches.
“We know that Horseshoe Beach is super crowded during the season and if we can start filtering them around the island to some of the other beaches ... we are going to put some emphasis on that going forward.
He added that promotion of Somerset's Long Bay Beach would help to spread the numbers around the island.
Mr Dunkley also questioned the breakdown on government's $2m investment into the ITU World Triathlon Bermuda.
Mr DeSilva said Mr Dunkley wanted specifics, he should submit a parliamentary question.