Bermuda's tourism outlook: Deep losses, silver linings

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The Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda. The island reported a more than 98% drop in cruise calls in 2020.
The Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda. The island reported a more than 98% drop in cruise calls in 2020.

Bermuda's end-of-year tourism industry metrics highlight the impact of the pandemic, with predictably deep losses. But there are some silver linings.

Statistics released by the Bermuda Tourism Authority reveal that visitor spending was down 88.7% in 2020 compared with 2019. Total visitors arriving by air decreased by 84.4%, with leisure air visitors down 86.6%, and airline seats to Bermuda decreased 70.6%.

Cruise passenger arrivals were down 98.3%.

"The crisis that beset our tourism industry was prolonged and decimating and, as predicted, the recovery is slow and gradual," said Glenn Jones, the authority's interim CEO.

"We're motivated to leverage opportunities to accelerate our recovery this year," he said.

A short-lived, gradual recovery took shape late in 2020, following the return of air service on June 30.

Data revealed that 26% of leisure, air-visitor volume had returned by October, although the recovery began to fall off during the pandemic's winter surge.

Despite the pandemic, 46 superyachts arrived on the island last year, and Bermuda hosted a PGA golf tour in October as well as sailing and rugby events.

Thanks to sports tourism, superyachts, U.K. visitors and digital nomads, Bermuda tourism "is positioned well to recover faster, as forecasts suggest travel habits will return to some normality by midyear," Jones said.

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