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Visitor arrivals down on 2019 but per capita spending rises

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Tourists enjoying the good weather conditions on Horseshoe Bay in September. Visitor arrivals for the third quarter of 2022 were up on last year, but still down on pre-pandemic levels. (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Visitor arrivals are still heavily down on pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest statistics.

Figures released by the Bermuda Tourism Authority show that there were 52,000 air arrivals in the third quarter of this year – down from almost 90,000 in the same three-month period in 2019.

The majority of those arrivals – 40,000 – were tourists travelling here on vacation – down from 70,000 leisure visitors in 2019, a drop of 43.6 per cent.

However, this was a better performance than the year to date figures, which were down 49.5 per cent on 2019, suggesting a gradual upward trend.

And tourism officials also pointed out that air visitor spending was $95.7 million, down by “just 30 per cent” on 2019.

Cruise passenger numbers were also down – from 215,000 between July and September 2019 to 176,000 for the same three months this year.

Cruise spending was $44.5 million, down just 5.5 per cent on 2019.

Per capita spending by leisure air visitors was $1,941, up 20.9 per cent on 2019.

The number of leisure visitors to the island travelling from the key US east coast market also slumped – down from 59,000 in the third quarter of 2019 to 33,000 this year.

And business visitors in the third quarter were down by almost half compared to 2019.

A BTA spokeswoman acknowledged that air arrivals from the US and Canada had “lagged”, but insisted that the figures showed “signs of continued recovery” compared to last year – when the island was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The spokeswoman highlighted the fact that visitor arrivals from the UK – which typically make up around five per cent of the island’s total visitor numbers each year – had “shown a much swifter recovery”.

The spokeswoman said: “Tourism measures have seen growth over 2021, including growth from the UK, while traditional air arrivals from the US and Canada lagged.

“Leisure travel from the UK, down just 27.6 per cent compared to 2019, has shown a much swifter recovery than our other primary markets – the US and Canada.

“The increase in UK visitation has likely served as motivation for the airline carrier to resume seven-day-a-week service between Heathrow and Bermuda in March 2023.”

The spokeswoman pointed out that total year-to-date leisure air arrivals of 79,745 represented growth of 76.1 per cent over 2021 figures.

On a positive note, yacht visits – which make up a fraction of all arrivals – were only down by 9.6 per cent.

The spokeswoman said that “suppressed hotel inventory has been a contributing factor to the slow pace of air capacity recovery”.

The tourism industry has been hammered by the closure of the Fairmont Southampton Princess in October 2020, which accounted for more than a quarter of the island’s hotel rooms and 30 per cent of its airlift.

No date for the commencement of renovations or re-opened has been confirmed as negotiations between the Government and Gencom, the hotel owner, over a debt guarantee and tax incentives continue.

The report noted that Bermuda was seeing a bigger return from visitors who were 50 or older “while the pace of return for younger travellers has been less robust”.

It added: “Visitors travelling for business, a category which had previously been slow to recover, grew to 5,444, this quarter, which is still 43 per cent less than in 2019.

“Air visitors whose purpose of travel was to visit friends and relatives grew to 6,370 moving the dial up 68.7 per cent over 2021 and bringing it to 29.7 per cent below the 2019 mark.”

Tracy Berkeley, the interim chief executive officer of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (File photograph)

Tracy Berkeley, the BTA’s interim chief executive officer, did not comment on the numbers.

In a statement, she said: “Our business intelligence informs both the big picture strategy and the tactical decisions of every division in this organisation.

“That is why it is important to us that this information is regularly shared with our partners in the industry and the community.”

A full breakdown of the figures is available on the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s website here.

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Published November 12, 2022 at 8:21 am (Updated November 12, 2022 at 8:21 am)

Visitor arrivals down on 2019 but per capita spending rises

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