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Charles Jeffers II leaves as BTA CEO after little over 12 months in the post

Charles Jeffers II, the former BTA chief executive (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Charles Jeffers II, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, has left the BTA after just over a year in the post, it was announced yesterday.

A statement from a BTA spokeswoman said that Tracy Berkeley, the body’s chief administration officer, has been appointed interim CEO and plans are in motion for a permanent replacement.

Ms Berkeley is the fifth person to hold the post in the past six years. A press release announcing the changes did not explain why Mr Jeffers has left the BTA.

Wayne Caines, BTA chairman, said: “We thank Charles for his contributions to Bermuda during a very difficult period for the country and the world at large.

“We have a dynamic agenda of initiatives and a highly qualified executive leadership team to help realise the transformational tourism growth for Bermuda that is critical at this moment in time, as the world emerges from a global pandemic and we start our summer season.

“I am very excited about our future.”

Ms Berkeley was appointed the CAO of the BTA in February 2021 and was responsible for directing best practice in both human resources management and operational efficiencies.

She also serves on the Bermuda Visitors Service Centre board, the Polaris Holding Company Ltd board and the Royal Bermuda Regiment Defence and Promotions Board.

Erin Smith, previously the chief information officer, has been promoted to chief operations officer while Jamari Douglas has joined the BTA from the Bermuda Business Development Agency in the newly created post of vice-president of marketing, public relations and communications.

Erin Smith, the newly named BTA chief operations officer, has served as the body’s chief information officer since September 2019.

A BTA spokeswoman said Ms Smith had oversight of all information technology, research, analysis and reporting, including tourism measures, marketing effectiveness, and tracking key performance indicators.

Jamari Douglas, the newly named vice-president of marketing, public relations and communications, was recruited from the Bermuda Business Development Agency, where he served as marketing director.

The spokeswoman said he had a “strong background developing and executing strategic sales and marketing campaigns”.

He also previously worked at the BTA’s New York office.

In a statement last night, Vance Campbell, the Minister of Tourism, said: “I have been briefed by the chairman of the Board on the departure of Charles H Jeffers II.

“Our stakeholders can be reassured by the fact that the Board has acted swiftly to minimise any disruption.

“The board has appointed Tracy Berkeley, a proven senior executive, as interim CEO. This interim appointment, coupled with the promotion of Erin Smith to Chief Operations Officer, will facilitate the continued focus on delivery of the strategic tourism recovery plan over the coming months.

“With events such as the Clipper Race, Carnival in Bermuda, and the Newport to Bermuda Race the outlook for tourism as we move into the summer is bright.”

However, Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Minister of Tourism, said Mr Jeffers’s departure came as the island was working to rebuild its tourism industry and was “alarming”.

“Mr Jeffers came highly decorated in the tourism industry. His qualifications speak for themselves,” Mr Cannonier said.

“Yet in only a little over a year, he's gone. His appointment came at a time when there were no tourists visiting our shores to speak of, and the Tourism Plan that had been widely distributed and embraced could not be implemented due to the pandemic.

“Within months of our easing of travel restrictions and finally a chance to dust off the plan and get things done, he's gone.”

He said the BTA and its board had suffered from a turnover of highly qualified individuals, which raised serious questions.

Mr Cannonier added: “What is going on? Why are so many leaving or being asked to leave?

“Bermuda and its tourism industry requires stability at this most important time in our history. The public deserves answers.”

Mr Jeffers, who had previously served as the COO of Visit Baltimore, was the fourth person to hold the post of BTA CEO.

Bill Hanbury handed over the reins to Kevin Dallas in January 2017, while Glenn Jones came in as interim CEO after Mr Dallas left in March 2020.

Mr Jeffers took on the post of CEO in April 2021 after a worldwide search.

His departure is one of several in recent months.

Terrence Jenkins – also known as Terrence J – departed the BTA’s board in March, while Douglas Trueblood, the chief sales and marketing officer, left the organisation after little more than a year in the post.

Mr Trueblood’s deputy Amanda Dempsey also left, leaving the marketing team without two of its leaders.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority said work to revitalise the island’s tourism industry was still under way – including a rebranding of Bermuda.

A BTA spokeswoman said that the new branding was developed through a brand study to celebrate Bermuda’s “authentic, culturally unique markers” to present an “immersive, gritty, honest representation of the real Bermuda”.

“The brand relaunch will take a phased approach starting with a new BTA website in mid-July, and the full brand campaign launch set to occur in mid-September,” the spokeswoman said.

The BTA also said it was working with the Government to develop the signature school hospitality and tourism curriculum.

The spokeswoman said: “Alongside tourism stakeholders, the BTA will provide industry expertise to help develop knowledge, talent and interest throughout the tourism workforce pipeline.

“Several key programmes will help reframe and rebrand the national service standards to ensure that every business is providing excellent customer service and elevated experience.

“A new independent partner will help to manage customer feedback in all areas by collecting data essential to understanding guest expectations, identifying issues, and assisting businesses who want to consistently improve their products, service, and staff.”

The BTA also highlighted its work in the field of sports tourism, noting upcoming events such as the Clipper Round the World Race, the Newport Bermuda Race, the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, the Bermuda Black Golfers Week and the World Triathlon Championship Series.

UPDATE: this story has been updated to include a statement from Vance Campbell, the Minister of Tourism.

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Published June 11, 2022 at 8:12 am (Updated June 11, 2022 at 4:46 pm)

Charles Jeffers II leaves as BTA CEO after little over 12 months in the post

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