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Tourism industry disappointed by RCL’s decision to ditch homeport plan

Disappointed: BTA head Charles Jeffers (File photo by Mark Tatem)

Tourism leaders reacted with disappointment yesterday after news broke that a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will not be based in Bermuda over the summer.

Charles Jeffers II, the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said the announcement that RCL’s Vision of the Seas would not homeport on the island was “disappointing”.

Mr Jeffers said: “Our team has worked for months alongside the government to develop a thoughtfully considered homeporting programme.

“Still, the loss means we must double down on our marketing efforts and continue to promote extended on-island stays for passengers.

“This is not the end of the road. Bermuda is open for business.”

Mr Jeffers added that tomorrow’s arrival of another cruise ship homeporting in Bermuda – Viking’s Orion – was good news for the island.

He said: “There has been significant demand for the eight-day Bermuda cruises.

“The Orion will visit the City of Hamilton, St George’s, and the Royal Naval Dockyard, bringing affluent cruisers keen to explore what Bermuda has to offer.

“Our retailers, attractions, and experience providers stand ready to the summer season.”

A spokeswoman for the BTA added that RCL’s decision was made after developments in the US which made it increasingly likely that companies could run regular cruises out of American ports.

The spokeswoman said: “Royal Caribbean made an internal business decision to suspend the Bermuda homeporting programme.

“The pause in Vision of the Seas sailings follows news of a proposed mid-July US port reopening and a slew of itinerary cancellations announced earlier this week.

She added: “Royal Caribbean remains a valued tourism partner and we look forward to welcoming them back alongside our air and cruise visitors later this year.”

She said the BTA was only informed of the decision yesterday, as was Stephen Todd, the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Hotel Association.

Mr Todd said: “It wasn’t something that our association had anticipated, given that when the homeporting initiative was first announced earlier this year.

He added hoteliers had seen the homeporting scheme as an opportunity to get cruise passengers to extend their stay at a resort.

Mr Todd said: This was being viewed by both the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Bermuda Hotels Association as a marketing opportunity for Bermuda to convert cruise passengers to extend their stay on island at one of the hotel properties, and strategic marketing was being developed to promote this.“

But Mr Todd added that the possibility became less likely when Royal Caribbean started to offer cheap flights to the island to encourage US travellers to take a cruise.

He added that cruise passengers would probably also have been hit with penalties if they changed their travel dates once on the island.

Mr Todd said: “However, given this development, the BHA continues to work closely with the BTA and the Bermuda Government in ensuring that we concentrate our efforts on promoting Bermuda as a safe travel destination, especially for those future international visitors who are fully immunised and are seeking to satisfy their pent up travel desires.”

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Published May 21, 2021 at 8:17 am (Updated May 21, 2021 at 8:17 am)

Tourism industry disappointed by RCL’s decision to ditch homeport plan

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