Elections in Bermuda in December brought about a change in political parties, a new premier in Craig Cannonier, and a new tourism team that has its work cut out for it.
In recent years, Bermuda's tourism industry has faltered as visitor numbers flagged and hotel development stalled, two areas that Shawn Crockwell, the new minister of tourism development and transport, intends to address right out of the gate.
"It is my goal to help tourism grow and flourish now and into the future," Crockwell said at his swearing-in ceremony in Hamilton on Jan. 3.
Overall tourist arrivals dropped 2.7% in Q3 2012, with cruise traffic taking an 8% hit over the same period in 2011, according to government figures.
Statistics compiled by the Caribbean Tourism Organization from January through June 2012 showed a 4% overall visitor drop in air and cruise arrivals, with the U.S. and Europe down 5.8% and 7.8%, respectively.
To reverse these trends, Crockwell will have the help of the new Tourism Authority, a private-sector organization he formed that will be composed of tourism industry professionals.
It will be headed by chairman designate David Dodwell, a longtime local hotelier, former minister of Parliament and owner of the Reefs in Bermuda and Nisbet Plantation Beach Club in Nevis.
The Tourism Authority will oversee the day-to-day marketing and sales of the destination while working closely with Crockwell to move tourism out of the political realm and carry out the vision laid out in Bermuda's National Tourism Plan, introduced in 2012.
"Dodwell has been tasked with leading the formation of and creating the structure for the new authority that will fulfill several of our election promises: to rejuvenate tourism, move it out of the political realm and create jobs," Crockwell said.
Boosting air arrivals and creating pride in the island by residents and building their awareness of the importance of tourism are key, Crockwell said.
The Tourism Authority, whose members will be appointed by Crockwell, will be accountable to Parliament.
"We have set an aggressive timeline to have the new authority up, running and working in six months to ensure that political interference is removed so we can achieve the best outcome for the revival of Bermuda's tourism industry," Crockwell said.
Hand in hand with revitalizing tourism will be efforts to stimulate the island's economy and create a welcoming climate for hospitality investment, "all of which is ultimately about creating jobs for Bermudians," Crockwell said.
As an example, the minister cited the Park Hyatt project in St. George's, announced in October 2010 but now apparently dead in the water after it was terminated by the previous administration in October.
Although the future of the development is in limbo, Crockwell pledged to find a resolution for the as-yet-unbuilt property. The site was first occupied by a Holiday Inn, followed by a Loews hotel and finally by Club Med, which closed in 1988.
The buildings were imploded in August 2008 to make way for the Park Hyatt resort.
"If the development does not go ahead, we need to look at other areas to help St. George's develop and stimulate its tourism product," Crockwell said.
The Tourism Authority will continue to work with the Bermuda Department of Tourism while the organization and structure of the Tourism Authority are finalized.
Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.