Bermuda: Interview with the Minister of Tourism

David Allen, who became minister of tourism in November, discusses his new position with contributing editor Harvey Chipkin.

TW: You have long been a publisher of a Bermuda travel trade magazine called Bermuda Dateline. How does that affect your outlook?

Allen: I am very much abreast of what's going on in the industry and I know many people in this business. It's not like coming into a strange new field. Also, I have been shadow tourism minister for 13 years and my colleagues and I are chomping at the bit to put some of the ideas we've had into play.

TW: What are some of those ideas?

Allen: We want to put the Bermudian identity back into tourism, to rediscover our island's soul. We feel the things that make us unique will stand us in good stead overseas.

TW: How does that translate into marketing plans?

Allen: It means promoting things like heritage tourism, ecological tourism and something we believe in strongly called educational tourism. That might mean divers taking a course in preservation of marine artifacts, or architecture buffs might take a course on our 18th-century buildings, or cooks might take a course on island cuisine or literary types might follow in the footsteps of James Thurber, Mark Twain or Anthony Trollope -- all of whom lived or worked here. I could go on and on.

TW: How would that work as far as selling through the trade is concerned?

Allen: We would be facilitators in developing products that would be sold through local entrepreneurs. They might offer, for instance, a cultural tour that includes a visit to an artist's studio or a dance rehearsal; it would be a total immersion in Bermudian life. On the natural front we have birds and plants that exist nowhere else. We have all of this: The idea is to harness it for touristic purposes. In fact, this kind of thing is ideal for incentive and meeting business.

TW: What other markets would you like to open up?

Allen: We would like to reinvent Bermuda as a family destination. Several resort properties have excellent programs for young people, others are adding them. The African-American market is also a prime target.

TW: Next year, you will change the mix of cruise ships into the island. Are there any other changes coming in this area?

Allen: We would very much like to see a ship dock on the weekend, rather than all of them coming midweek. That would more evenly spread out the cruise passenger arrivals. We hope to see that by next year.

TW: What are your plans for agent education?

Allen: We still believe that on-site visits are the best way to appreciate Bermuda, but we will maintain our schedule of off-island seminars. n

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