Bermuda's government-run Department of Tourism will be abolished and replaced by an independent, newly created Tourism Authority.
Tourism Authority legislation will be sent to Parliament when it resumes sessions in midmonth, and passage of the Tourism Act is expected quickly, according to Minister of Tourism Development and Transport Shawn Crockwell.
"The transition will begin once the act is passed, and the transition is anticipated to be completed by the end of March 2014," Crockwell said.
The move to an independent authority grew out of the Tourism Plan, which launched last year and which called for the creation of a Tourism Authority to revitalize Bermuda's tourism industry, stimulate the economy, create a welcoming environment for hospitality investment and create jobs for Bermudians, according to Crockwell.
Since he assumed his post in December following elections, Crockwell has endeavored to reverse Bermuda's sagging tourism numbers and facilitate long-range planning through an independent authority managed by industry professionals.
In January he named David Dodwell, owner of the Reefs Hotel & Club in Bermuda, as chairman-designate of the Tourism Authority.
In a meeting on Aug. 27 with the Department of Tourism staff, Crockwell said that no current staff would be dismissed and that all employees would have the opportunity to apply for positions within the new Tourism Authority.
"Should employees not be hired by the authority, employment opportunities will be made available within government ministries and departments," Crockwell said.
Meanwhile, current staff will continue with their work until activities are transitioned to the new authority.
'A mammoth task'
"The government's election platform promised to remove the day-to-day running of tourism away from the political realm and to transition to an independent authority, a mammoth task that involves a multitude of issues," Crockwell said.
A CEO who will report to a board of directors will head the new Tourism Authority.
During the interim period that will end once a CEO is in place, an executive steering committee headed by Dowell will run the operation.
Bermuda's tourism numbers have plummeted in recent months, dropping 12% in the second quarter compared with the same period in 2012.
Air arrivals in Q2 were similar to last year's figures of 75,013, but cruise and yacht arrivals fell 17%, to 133,676, due to 22 fewer cruise calls.
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