Bermuda tourism on gradual path to recovery - Glenn Jones
Bermuda’s tourism industry is on a “slow and gradual” path to recovery, according to the head of the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
Glenn Jones, the interim CEO of the BTA, told the World Tourism Network in an online presentation last Saturday that the body hopes to build on the success of recent sporting events and destination weddings.
Mr Jones said: “Destination weddings could be a real winner for us because couples, especially in the northeast, have not been able to have gatherings or the weddings they want.
“We can convert some of those people to destination weddings where our testing regime helps them to ensure that the people attending their wedding are not at risk of spreading Covid so they can have the people there that they want to celebrate that special day.”
Mr Jones said the Bermuda Gold Cup, the World Tens Rugby Series and the PGA Tour Bermuda Championship were highlights of the BTA’s promotional efforts this autumn and showcased the benefits of sports tourism.
He said: “Professional sports all over the world have had a difficult time getting restarted, and we were able to create a safe environment in Bermuda using our testing regime for some of these sports to get restarted.
“Those three events were responsible for us having our best recovery months since reopening in July.”
Mr Jones told viewers that Bermuda’s tourism industry was hard hit by the pandemic, with the LF Wade International Airport closed to flights until July.
He said that over the past five years Bermuda has had more than 500,000 seats of airlift to the island per year, but because of the pandemic the airlift this year fell to below 200,000.
Mr Jones said: “In July we had 10 per cent of the air capacity that we had the July before. In August it was 20 per cent, in September it was 23 per cent and in October it was over 30 per cent.”
He predicted that while the BTA does not expect the number of arrivals to return to their pre-pandemic peak in 2021, the figures will continue to improve.
Mr Jones said the BTA’s focus has remained on US cities such as New York, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Atlanta, the body has high hopes for the British Airways flight from London Heathrow.
He said: “We will be investing far more heavily in the first quarter, getting ready for those new flights from Heathrow to start in late March and we hope this will help us grow leisure travel from not just the UK, but certain cities around Europe as well.”
Mr Jones said that when the island reopened to guests, it introduced “some of the most rigorous testing requirements for travel anywhere in the world”, which helped the island earned the “Safe Travel” seal from the World Travel and Tourism Council.
He added that 96 per cent of visitors surveyed said they felt safe or very safe during their time on the island.
Mr Jones said the pandemic also resulted in the temporary loss of hotel beds - while the island had 2,344 hotel rooms open before the pandemic, only 345 were available when the island reopened in July.
But he said the island was able to reach 66 per cent of its usual inventory in October, and the opening of the St Regis property in St George’s in April will increase that figure to 73 per cent.
Mr Jones said the closure of the Fairmont Southampton for refurbishments was a “blessing and a curse” because while the resort was the largest property for groups, group business was severely limited.
He added: “It makes sense to us that they would use this time to enhance the product they are offering and reopen hopefully as one of the hot new properties in the region.”
Mr Jones said the introduction of “work from Bermuda” certificates as the “biggest PR win” for the island of 2020 and legislation to encourage super yacht visitation had been put in place and had already begun to make waves.
Mr Jones said: “Although everything has been slowed by Covid, this is one area where we have even seen in some months growth on visitation compared to some years previous.
“We think this gives us good, strong footing for when things normalise to really win with this audience.”