Scott predicts 'groundbreaking' tourism changes are coming
Tourism and transport-related projects on the horizon could make waves across the entire island, the Minister of Transport said yesterday.
Lawrence Scott told The Royal Gazette that the “groundbreaking” developments would deliver opportunities for Bermudian entrepreneurs as the Government aims to revitalise the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “We are in active conversations with multiple cruise lines to diversify, add to and modify our product offering, not just from a transportation point of view, not just from a tourism point of view but from a country as a whole, and to have businesses look at us like they never have before.”
Mr Scott added that talks with “other entities” were positive and “moving in the right direction”.
Although the minister said he was unable to give more details yesterday, he expected the ministries of tourism and transport to have “exciting news for the country” in about four weeks.
He said: “This will be groundbreaking news, this will be a country first.”
Mr Scott added that the plans could include other aspects of transport and tourism, not just the cruise ship industry.
He said: “We in transport have a goal for this upcoming year of modernising transportation.”
The minister explained that the transport infrastructure’s design was to have taxis, minibuses, limousines and air transport services each covering their own fields of work.
He said: “What is coming down the pipeline will provide opportunities for all of them as long as they stick to what is lawful.
“You will start to see some very unique cross-utilisation and indirect partnerships between the different public service vehicles.
“You will see a dovetailing of the Department of Public Transportation with taxis, and DPT with minibuses, and Marine and Ports with limos.
“You’re going to see a lot of innovative ways which then put Bermudians and Bermudian entrepreneurs on the front lines, not just in transportation but in business.”
Mr Scott said the aim was to use the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic "as a springboard into opportunity“.
He raised the possibility that young Bermudians could have the chance to “in a sense, become owners, operators, managers of their own air routes”.
The transport minister said: “We are encouraging young entrepreneurs to go out and look at what it takes to put on charter flights.”
He highlighted a series of SATA Azores Airlines flights between Bermuda and Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, which started in December and will run weekly from June to September.
Mr Scott pointed out that the benefits included increased air traffic and more visitors to the island.
He added: “It did not cost the taxpayer a red cent.
“What we’re doing is encouraging young entrepreneurs to look around the globe and find out where do they believe that a direct flight from Bermuda would be most successful.
“Then we encourage them to look at putting on a charter flight to that destination.”
Mr Scott said that his ministry would help by providing “any publicly accessible information so they can do their due diligence”.
His comments came after David Burt, the Premier, said in an interview with Bloomberg that talks were taking place with cruise ship operators about using Bermuda as a departure point for ships.
The transport minister pointed out that the island’s testing regime and protocols for travellers meant it was well-placed for the reintroduction of cruise ships later this year.
Mr Scott said: “Cruise ships being restricted out of the United States would not face the same restrictions in Bermuda.”
He added: “We work very closely with the Ministry of Health.
“Nothing that the Ministry of Transport does in relation to airlines and cruise passengers is done without the approval of the Ministry of Health.
“Therefore, the public can rest assured that if and when they see cruise ships return, that everything is safe.”
Mr Scott said that cruise ship visits “in the traditional sense” were not expected to return to Bermuda until August at the earliest, if at that time there are no restrictions by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in place.
The minister said that the impact of Covid-19 was a “great equaliser” for countries.
But he added that Bermuda’s “successful” management of the pandemic meant teams can market the island “and ask for, propose or even initiate conversations that at any other time would not have been entertained”.
Mr Scott said he wanted people to have “hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel”.
He added: “The end of the tunnel is not that far away.”
Mr Scott said: “When we started to have our spike we had to stop our conversations with cruise lines, we had to stop our conversations with air carriers to focus on ensuring the safety of Bermuda and Bermudians.”
He explained that if residents followed health guidance like mask-wearing and distancing to help keep coronavirus cases low, the Government "can continue to put our efforts and resources into revitalising this economy and … getting people to come to Bermuda”.
Mr Scott added: “Our safety is actually our new secret sauce.
“That’s what allows us to sell Bermuda to airlines, that’s what allows us to sell Bermuda to cruise lines, that’s what makes us attractive but everybody has to do their part.”