Visitor numbers plummet in first quarter of the year
Visitor arrivals nosedived in the first three months of the year because of the pandemic, it was revealed yesterday.
But tourism chiefs were optimistic that numbers could pick up later in the year as vaccination programmes around the world gather pace.
There were just 1,666 tourists between January and March, compared to 22,973 for the same period last year – a fall of 92 per cent.
The drop was even more dramatic – 95.26 per cent – compared to the same period in 2019.
The visitors all came to Bermuda by air as there were no cruise ship calls.
Airlines brought in 13,607 leisure visitors in the first quarter last year and 9,366 arrived on cruise ships.
Most tourists for the quarter – 1,485 or almost 90 per cent – came from the US and about 70 came from the UK.
Business visitor numbers were also down by almost 90 per cent.
The island played host to just 795 business visitors in the first three months of 2021 compared to 7,193 for the same period last year and 9,948 for Q1 2019.
A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Tourism Authority said the tourism industry was not seriously hit by the pandemic in the first quarter of last year.
She added: “Q1 2020 was primarily pre-pandemic and the temporary shutdown of regularly scheduled commercial flights only started in late March 2020.”
The statistics also showed a massive drop in visitor spending of about $17 million – in line with the decline in visitor numbers.
But one ray of sunshine in the gloom was the amount of time visitors spent on the island.
Leisure visitors spent an average of 14 nights on the island, and business visitors averaged 21 nights.
Average stays for both categories last year was around five nights.
Charles Jeffers II, the chief executive officer of the BTA, said: “According to the Centres for Disease Control, there are over 108 million US residents who are fully vaccinated.
“Many of them are in Bermuda’s key markets. So while we can’t expect to see tourism return to 2019 levels, there is a growing pool of immunised travellers ready for international travel.
“We plan to be on their radar.
“That’s why our marketing efforts this spring and summer will exclusively target vaccinated travellers.”
Mr Jeffers added: “We will be welcoming the Viking and Royal Caribbean homeport programme as cruise ship passengers return for the first time in over a year.
“We will tempt them with attractive promotions to encourage longer stays and deliver fresh new experiences to drive visitor spending and connect with locals.
“And we’ll continue our work attracting group travel and sports tourism to safely bolster our arrival numbers.”
He said: “While the impact of the pandemic will persist, we have reason to be optimistic for the summer.
“The rise in immunised consumers from our key markets, coupled with pent-up traveller demand, sets the stage for an audience ripe for a safe embrace of the Bermuda product this summer.
“Our message to vaccinated travellers in our key markets is that we are open, safe, and nearby. We will woo them with improved airlift and significantly enhanced product offerings.”
David Burt, the Premier and tourism minister, added the figures were not surprising.
But Mr Burt said: “As one of our key economic pillars, it is vital that we turn this around.
“The impact on our hospitality sector is far-reaching. The hotel industry has a workforce that is 70 per cent Bermudian.”
Mr Burt added: “These women and men’s livelihoods rely on the success of the sector.
“That’s why it has been so vital that we focus on securing the health and safety of the Island so that once our residents are safe and protocols are in place, we can then welcome increased numbers of visitors to restore jobs, support businesses and move towards economic growth.
“We can be encouraged by the increasing numbers of vaccinated residents, investment in our tourism product and strategic targeting of vaccinated travellers to choose Bermuda this year. “