BTA hopes end of TA form will help revival of tourism
The interim head of the Bermuda Tourism Authority has welcomed today’s abolition of the controversial Travel Authorisation form, claiming that it will “make travel to Bermuda seamless again”.
Tracy Berkeley, interim chief executive officer of the taxpayer-funded authority, spoke out following the release of disappointing visitor arrival figures for the third quarter of 2022 over the holiday weekend.
Critics had previously slammed the government-imposed TA – which demanded that visitors pay a $40 fee for a pre-arrival Covid-19 test – as a disincentive to travellers.
The Government insisted that the public safety measure – which brought in millions of dollars in revenue – should remain in place until March, 2023.
But under mounting pressure it was forced to backtrack, and eventually dropped the scheme earlier this month. Yesterday was the last day travellers were required to fill in the form or pay the $40 TAF fee.
From today, visitors will fill in an online arrivals form.
Last night Ms Berkeley told The Royal Gazette: “The elimination of the Travel Authorisation and the return of our digital Bermuda arrival card will make travel to Bermuda seamless again and bodes well for future growth.”
Ms Berkeley, who stepped in as interim head of the BTA in June following the surprise departure of Charles Jeffers III, played down the latest low arrival numbers.
She said: “We have set ambitious targets based on intelligence that combines local data, global travel trends, and the unique challenges that beset our market.”
Effective November 14, the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) will reinstate the Bermuda Arrival Card, a digital form for visitors only, which was in place prior to the onset of the pandemic.
The online visitor arrivals process can be completed in three easy steps:
1. Go to www.BermudaArrivalCard.com
2. Complete the form accurately and completely with visitor details
3. Download the form and present it to immigration officials for inspection
The BTA has provided further information on the process around the Bermuda Arrival Card: https://bit.ly/3FL6M8b
Ms Berkeley pointed out positives in the statistics – such as an increase in visitor spending and a surge in arrivals from the UK – without mentioning that arrivals from key US cities were massively down.
“Air capacity and hotel inventory numbers are intertwined, and their growth will have positive implications for tourism and so represent a critical area of focus for our team.”
She added: “Our projections indicate that hotel bed loss will not be restored to pre-pandemic levels until possibly 2024.
“Meanwhile, our team has launched a brand campaign and targeted promotions to drive sales for the fall and spring period, and seed interest for 2023.”
Ms Berkeley insisted that the BTA’s strategic marketing plan “lands our destination in focus and nurture cities, positioning us to compete against other jurisdictions in a bid for those travellers”.
Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Minister for Tourism, was more forthright in his analysis of the Q3 visitor arrival statistics, which he described as “abysmal”.
He agreed with Ms Berkeley that the TA “had damaged us severely”, but also questioned why the BTA had failed to appoint a permanent CEO in the four months since Mr Jeffers’departure.
He said: “The Tourism Minister can't tell us if he knows the BTA is advertising for permanent appointments.
“His cabinet has been looking under the hood since 2017 and to this date we have no clear direction going forward other than to blame any abysmal numbers in the industry to the closure of Fairmont Southampton Princess.
“Yet to date Bermuda still doesn't clearly know where we stand with that project either.
“To make matters worse the Minister of Transport also has no clue if he can get back one of Bermuda's most favoured direct flights to Boston.
“So when you ask "am I disappointed ? Yes. However, like most others we simply want to know what the heck is going on.”
Mr Cannonier said that he will be meeting with Ms Berkeley this week and was “looking forward to understanding more”.
The Royal Gazette contacted Tourism Minister Vance Campbell earlier this week to discuss the figures. No response from Mr Campbell was received by press time.