Hopes high for a tourism rebound
Tourism businesses have been told to brace for thousands of visitors as the Bermuda Tourism Authority predicts a strong summer season.
Charles Jeffers II, the BTA’s chief executive officer, said that hotels were almost sold out for the return of the SailGP competition next month.
The BTA’s confidence for a rebound appeared to be borne out by the island’s hotels and vacation rental homes.
Coldwell Banker realtors posted on Twitter this week that demand for summer holiday rentals was “off the charts”.
The firm placed more than 25 “short term vacation guests and families” into its portfolio for June.
Coldwell’s post added: “We anticipate the same level of demand for July and August – the market is back”.
Stephen Todd, chief executive of the Bermuda Hotels Association, confirmed yesterday that SailGP, set for May 14 and 15, had brought optimism to a sector largely put out of action by two years of a global pandemic.
“We’re seeing positive trends for occupancy,” Mr Todd said. “There’s a lot of keen interest in the events coming to Bermuda’s shores. A number of properties have seen an uptick from the upcoming sailing.
“We don’t have definitive numbers across the board. Once the event is up and running, we’ll have a better indication.”
He conceded that higher bookings were influenced by the overall hit in Bermuda’s hotel capacity left by the closure in 2020 of the Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda’s biggest resort.
“There’s less beds available. But by the same token, it’s very positive for the properties that are operating and available.”
Mr Todd said there had been some renewal in group bookings for the summer.
“In the absence of the Fairmont Southampton, other properties have to market themselves. We really need to make sure we have our A-game out.”
Mr Jeffers’ statement said hotels were “reportedly nearly sold out” for SailGP.
The BTA head stated: "We haven’t seen this kind of occupancy in years, and it looks to remain strong throughout the summer.
“I encourage all local businesses to be ready to welcome thousands of visitors from around the world, eager to return to Bermuda’s beautiful shores and the hospitality for which we are known.”
The BTA also credited Bermuda’s easing this spring of travel restrictions against Covid-19.
Asked if hoteliers shared that view, Mr Todd said: “Absolutely. We had some issues with the Travel Authorisation system, which were corrected.
“It created a few problems, but nothing significant across the industry. We were quite fortunate.”
The backlog in authorisations earlier this month was blamed on delays to the Government’s software and an outage on the government website.
Mr Todd said the island’s hoteliers were also watching travel restrictions in the US.
“There’s been a lot of talk about them possibly relaxing the requirement for the day before negative testing.”
He said a resurgence in tourism would also make this summer “our first true test for the new airport terminal”.
Michael Cranfield of Vacation Rentals Bermuda agreed the sector appeared to be improving.
“I’m not saying it’s jumping up. But it does seem to me to be on the rise, including short trips of three to four days.”
Mr Cranfield said visitors during the height of the pandemic had tended to book longer stays after “the hassle and expense”.
“It’s looking good – at the moment I’m full almost until September,” he said.
“Other people I’m speaking to are saying a similar thing from the end of February and beginning of March.
“The Travel Authorisation is still a thorn in our side, but it is what it is.”
The BTA’s announcement over the weekend came with notice that the authority was seeking Bermudians to fill “several” open positions.
The Royal Gazette reported last week that Douglas Trueblood, the organisation’s chief sales and marketing officer, had left the BTA, as had Amanda Dempsey, the BTA’s long-time marketing director.
Wayne Caines, the BTA board’s chairman, said the organisation’s role as the island’s destination marketing organisation was now “more important than ever”.
Mr Caines said high-profile events such as SailGP and this month’s USATF Bermuda Games were “vital to our economic recovery”.
Other events in the calendar include the Clipper Around the World race in June as well as sport fishing, the Triple Crown Bluefish Championship in July and the Butterfield Bermuda PGA Championship as well as Black Golfers Week, both in October.
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