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BTA on tourism: ‘data shows strong forward momentum’

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On the up: visitor arrivals continue to climb, but are still well below pre-pandemic levels (File photograph)

The tourism industry is continuing its gradual recovery but visitor arrivals are still well below pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest statistics.

The island welcomed 553,000 visitors in 2022, down from 808,000 in 2019.

The vast majority of visitors – 402,657 or 73 per cent – arrived by cruise ship, with 145,865 visitors travelling by air. A further 4,595 visitors called in on Bermuda by yacht.

But air arrivals pumped far more money into the economy, spending $270 million during the year. Cruise ship passengers spent $102 million. In 2019, visitors spent a total of $520 million.

More than two thirds of air travellers – 99,000 – came to Bermuda on holiday. Another 23,000 were here on business and 19,000 were visiting friends or relatives.

The figures also highlighted that the US remains Bermuda’s key market, with 73 per cent of air visitors flying in from America. Visitors flying out of Britain made up a further 11 per cent of air arrivals and Canada accounted for another 9 per cent of visitors.

Commenting on the figures, Erin Smith, the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s chief operations officer, said: “While there is more work to do to reach our pre-pandemic visitation levels, the data shows strong forward momentum.”

Ms Smith noted that declining hotel capacity and air capacity were “limiting factors” that were impacting arrival numbers – airlines provided 356,000 seats to Bermuda last year, down from 580,000 in 2019.

This was further reflected in available rooms at the 42 licensed properties falling to 1,720 from about 2,400 rooms in 41 properties in 2019.

An executive summary in the report noted: “While Bermuda has not yet returned to 2019 visitor volumes, the island saw significant year-over-year growth across key tourism measures in 2022, including air capacity, leisure air visitors and cruise travel as compared against 2021.

“Though significant increases were seen in 2022, year-end statistics underscore that more work remains to be done before reaching the baseline numbers of 2019.

The report also noted that there was reason to believe that the industry will continue its upward momentum this year.

It said: “With the termination of the island’s Public Health (Covid) emergency orders in November of 2022, Bermuda’s appeal as a vacation destination for 2023 has grown.

“The island can expect an historic increase in cruise arrivals, which will positively impact tax revenue and generate more visitor traffic to businesses at each port. Bermuda looks forward to welcoming over 220 cruise calls and more passengers than in 2019.

2022 by the numbers (2019 figures in parentheses)

• Total visitor arrivals: 553,000 (808,000)

• Cruise visitors: 402,000 (536,000)

• Air visitors: 146,000 (269,000)

• Air travellers on vacation/leisure: 99,000 (203,000)

• Air travellers on business: 23,000 (46,000)

• Air capacity (seats available): 356,000 (580,000)

• Cruise ship visits: 164 (181)

• Visitor spending – air passengers: $270m ($399m)

• Visitor spending: – cruise passengers: $102m ($120m)

“Air capacity to Bermuda is expected to reach at least 76 per cent of 2019 levels this summer while hotel inventory remains at approximately 73 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. This will limit growth in air visitors, although bookings for the year look strong and should translate into significant growth over 2022.”

There were some more positive signs in niche markets, according to the report.

Super yachts, defined as vessels longer than 24 metres, rose from 103 in 2019 to 143 last year.

Occupancy levels for vacation rentals also rose to a record 65.5 per cent but that was set against a substantial drop in the number of rental units from 718 to 565, meaning there were 12,000 vacation rental visitors compared with 27,000 in 2019.

• For the full report see related media.

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Published February 17, 2023 at 8:01 am (Updated February 17, 2023 at 10:38 am)

BTA on tourism: ‘data shows strong forward momentum’

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