Tourism summit: visitors go farther afield
A growing number of cruise visitors are embracing more than just Horseshoe Beach and Bermuda’s public transport system is working to meet that demand.
Stacy Evans, of the Transport Planning Team, told attendees at the 2023 Tourism Summit that cruise ship visitors would travel typically to the popular beach on their first day on the island and pursue other tours or shopping options later.
However, she said this summer passengers chose to explore other experiences on the island, including the historic Town of St George.
“This year, the majority of the people wanted to take a tour,” Ms Evans said. “They were more interested in cultural and historical things about Bermuda.
“What made transportation a little more challenging this year was pulling minibuses out of the minibus line at Dockyard and pulling them over to do tours when minibuses in their queue were really going to the beach predominantly.
“A lot of people wanted to go to St George’s. The elephant in the room is we did not have as much of a consistent ferry service to St George’s in the last couple of years. We are going to try to fix that for next year.
“We did have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday service this summer, but we fixed that too late. We are going to do better next year for sure.”
Ms Evans said that Horseshoe would often attract 5,000 visitors a day in the peak of cruise ship season but this year a growing number visited other beaches instead such as Warwick Long Bay, Somerset Long Bay, Tobacco Bay and Clearwater Beach.
She said that this summer the island had several 10,000-passenger days as the cruise industry bounced back.
“The last time that we had close to that was 2018 when we had six ships in port, but even then the most we had that day was just over 8,000 passengers,” she said.
Ms Evans said that the island also welcomed larger family groups visiting the island together, with sometimes as many as 30 or 40 members of the same family.
She also noted an increase in visitors from Asia, stating that a number of groups had travelled to New York or Boston for cruises to the island.
While Ms Evans said that she could not make any announcements about the path forward, she said news should be coming very soon and highlighted the coming roll-out of digital fares for public transport.
Taxi service was a major point of discussion during the panel discussion on transport.
David Frost, a taxi owner and operator, said that while Bermuda’s taxi drivers were known as ambassadors because of how they treated their clients, some drivers did not appear to have that mindset.
“We try always to tell our people that short jobs lead to long jobs,” Mr Frost said. “We have taxi drivers with the mindset that they want to do this job and don’t want to do that job.
“That’s not what the permit is issued for. The permit was issued to do public service. The problem is we can’t get TCD to put these people under the microscope.
“If they are not doing what they are supposed to do, take their permit. Give them some sort of penalty that will hurt their pockets.”
He acknowledged that some taxi operators were hesitant to accept credit cards because they were concerned about bank fees, while an attendee added that there were customers who had rejected the transactions after departing the island, leaving the drivers out of pocket.
Ms Evans responded that the ministry and its staff were working extremely hard on enforcement, but changes were needed and would come as part of the modernisation of public transport.
Warren Simmons, the acting assistant director of the Department of Public Transport, said the issues facing public transportation had been well publicised but the department was confident its work would bear fruit.
Ms Evans added that the department had put 70 electric buses on the road and the digital fare system should be in place “six to seven months from now”.
“We are going to have real-time information for visitors and residents alike to see when the next bus is coming, if a bus is going to be cancelled,” she said. “We have real change coming.”
Tallent Clark, of Rugged Rentals, said that while the pandemic had hindered the minicar rental service’s start, it was now operating in the black and had more than tripled its fleet of vehicles.
He added that many visitors were used to renting cars when they travel and they preferred having the option of a minicar over a rental cycle while in Bermuda.