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Covid-19’s 'decimating' impact on Bermuda tourism

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Devastating: Bermuda’s visitor arrivals crashed in 2020.
The Bermuda Tourism Authority’s end of year report for 2020 (Image supplied)

The impact of Covid-19 on Bermuda’s tourism industry was “prolonged and decimating” according to the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s end-of-year report.

There were significant declines across all visitor categories but a return to some normality is expected by the middle of 2021.

Glenn Jones, interim chief executive at the BTA, said: “As predicted, the recovery is slow and gradual.

“Our organisation is motivated to find green shoots within the industry and leverage those opportunities to accelerate the destination’s recovery in 2021.”

The number of cruise visitors was down 98.3 per cent on 2019 while total leisure visitor spending was down 88.7 per cent.

Other figures included: leisure air visitors down 86.6 per cent; total air visitors down 84.4 per cent; airline seats flying to Bermuda down 70.6 per cent.

Amid the gloom, the BTA reported a boost during the summer months followed by short-lived and gradual recovery late in the year. There were increases in leisure air visitor volume from July until October when 26 per cent had returned.

The BTA said: “Bermuda was not spared from jarring disruption, including a decisive Government of Bermuda move to protect its community from a rapidly worsening pandemic by closing to scheduled commercial flights, March 21 to June 30, 2020.”

In November, the pandemic experienced a winter surge in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

With a year-on-year decline of 71 per cent, visitors from the UK outperformed the rest of leisure air arrivals which were down 86.6 per cent overall.

All air visitors in 2020 stayed longer than usual, on average three days longer than they did in 2019 – about eight days rather than five.

The BTA said the Government of Bermuda’s “prudently engineered traveller arrival process of aggressive Covid-19 testing” was the main reason consumers chose Bermuda in the second half of last year.

“Endorsements for safety from the World Tourism and Travel Council and a Centers for Disease Control travel warning which was, at one stage, reduced to the lowest possible risk level provided the credibility consumers were looking for.

“In exit surveys, 98 per cent of travellers said they felt ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ from Covid-19 while in Bermuda between July and December 2020.

“The same sentiment motivated the PGA Tour to make the Bermuda Championship in October the first pro golf tour event to permit live spectators since the onset of the pandemic.

“Professional sports organisers of sailing’s Bermuda Gold Cup and World Match Racing Tour and rugby’s World Tens Series had the same confidence in Bermuda for their events.”

New policies improved our competitiveness in the superyacht market with 46 superyachts arriving on the island during the year and the country’s first superyacht charter guests. The BTA described the market as “a tangible area of growth for Bermuda going forward”.

Digital nomads were also described as “silver linings in a dark and difficult year”.

“Bermuda fared better through this storm than many competing destinations and is positioned well to recover faster too as forecasts suggest travel habits returning to some normality by the middle of 2021,” the BTA said.

The BTA will discuss its outlook for 2021 at a virtual public forum on February 19, 2021.

The full 2020 Visitor Arrivals Report is available online at GoToBermuda.com

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Published February 15, 2021 at 9:52 am (Updated February 15, 2021 at 9:52 am)

Covid-19’s 'decimating' impact on Bermuda tourism

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