New hotel owner upbeat over island’s tourism future
The new owner of an iconic Bermuda resort is confident that the island’s tourism industry will bounce back to better days.
But hotelier Phil Hospod — who bought the Cambridge Beaches resort in Sandys last year — said that the Bermuda Tourism Authority must focus its promotional campaigns on key markets to raise awareness of the island as a holiday destination.
Mr Hospod’s company, New York-based Dovetail, is pumping millions of dollars into the resort over the next three years, and some initial upgrades have already been completed.
Mr Hospod said: “The market as a whole has been improving this year. For sure it’s not quite back to 2019 levels from an occupancy point of view, but that’s what we expected.
“I’m really excited about Bermuda’s prospects and opportunity, and it stems from the fact that when people come here they love it and have a great time. They’re saying, ‘Why haven’t we been here before?’. It exceeds expectations, which is great.
“I would say our biggest issue is awareness. When people are thinking about where they should go, Bermuda doesn’t come up as often as it should.
“But I’m optimistic because it’s beautiful, it’s friendly, it’s safe, it’s convenient, and I think we all have to work together to succeed.
“People love discovering new destinations and somehow Bermuda feels like an undiscovered treasure right now — surprisingly. The flip side to that is that it’s a good thing. Travellers like looking for new things and then telling their friends.
“But we as a destination — Bermuda — have to deliver on the promise. We’re saying that this is a great place to visit. The experience has to follow the expectation and hopefully they’ll fall in love with Bermuda and tell all their friends about it and keep coming back.
“We have to prioritise tourism as an important industry and introduce Bermuda to the world. We also have to figure out how to get some more airlift. If we can increase awareness and the message and the desire to come — and I think we can — then hopefully that will also make it easier to increase airlift.”
Mr Hospod’s views were echoed by the resort’s general manager, Clarence Hofheins, who said that the BTA was taking the right approach in promoting the island.
Mr Hofheins said: “The challenge that the island has had is that over the years there’s been mixed messages about just what Bermuda is and what the brand of Bermuda is.
“I think what the BTA is going to try to do is really focus on that brand and really go after the market that is right next door to us — New York, Boston, the US East Coast.
“There are so many people there that still don’t know that Bermuda exists — that it’s a two-hour flight away. That’s where the focus needs to be.
“I think over the years that brand has changed for whatever reason. You need to find that brand, find that message and stick to that message.
“I think we’re getting there and I think the Government is on board with that and supporting that. I think they get that and they’re allowing the BTA to transition and I’m optimistic that the BTA is going to help all of us.”
Mr Hofheins said that there was now a great deal of collaboration between hoteliers and other industry stakeholders on the island.
“That’s something I haven’t seen before,” he said.
“All of us understand that we’re in this together and the feeling among the owners and the general managers is we’ve all got to make this happen together.”
Referring to the latest upgrades to Cambridge Beaches, Mr Hospod said he was pleased with the progress that had been made, despite hurdles such as the Covid pandemic and supply-chain issues.
He said: “It definitely has its challenges and we’ve run into a couple of issues but when we were looking at this property in the summer of 2020 there was a lot of turmoil in the world, but this location, this peninsular, this 360 degrees of water views — this is irreplaceable and incomparable.
“It’s falling mostly in line with the timeline of our expectations. On our side we’re excited to see that the improvements are paying dividends in terms of the guest experience and positive reviews. We’re seeing the green shoots.
“Our view on the long term is that Bermuda is an incredible destination and this is a beautiful property within an incredible destination.
“There’s a feeling that you have when you come here that it’s deeply Bermudian — it really has a sense of place. You arrive here and you look around and whether it’s the cottages or the friendly staff or the 13 shades of blue in all directions — there’s something that really speaks to the heart of the property and that’s the feeling that we want to keep. What we want to elevate is the guest experience, the dining offerings, the design element.”