HAMILTON -- Why should a destination as beautiful, safe and
accessible as Bermuda be steadily losing business to other
The answer is simple, according to Minister of Tourism David
Dodwell: It should not.
And if Dodwell has anything to say about it, that trend won't
last much longer, thanks to a five-year plan he spearheaded and
presented to the Bermuda House of Assembly recently.
Inherent in the plan is an honest assessment of the tourism
situation on the island, which has been slowly declining for the
past 18 years, as well as ideas for improvement.
"We have to be bold, different and innovative and be willing to
change," Dodwell said.
One of his principal strategies has been an all-out effort to
cajole the private and public sectors into working toward a common
goal: that is, adapting to the changing needs of today's
That effort has been crystallized into a new entity, set to be
in place by November, called the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
"It is to be a private-public sector partnership that shares the
financing, marketing, staffing, positioning and decision making for
all aspects of the tourism industry," he said.
The new body will enable Bermuda to be more competitive, Dodwell
said, because, unlike the government, it will be flexible and able
to be responsive to the marketplace.
"We will create a unique and essential entity to manage tourism
that will be able to turn on a dime," he said, adding, however,
that the authority would be accountable to the government,
particularly in the area of public policy.
"I feel that the government has been far too involved in the
past in terms of managing tourism, when you consider that the
government does not own the product."
Another promising omen is the probable reincarnation of a former
Club Med site, located in St. George's in the East End.
For a destination that strictly limits the construction of new
hotels, any new property would be news, but this site has been the
subject of speculation for years.
The property has been closed for nine years, during which time
the Bermuda government was engaged in an ultimately successful
legal battle to get the property back, Dodwell said.
Officials from the Atlanta-based Camberley Hotel Co. have signed
an option-to-lease agreement and are in the process of examining
the site, he said.
"Camberley specializes in developing older properties with an
historic element," Dodwell said, adding that the former Club Med
site is located near Fort St. Catherine.
"Its other forte is repositioning the property in terms of a
market turnaround," he said.
"It will play up the heritage and focus on family, sports,
adventure and golf."
Dodwell also said the company plans to reduce the size of the
hotel to 275 rooms and "do some innovative things with regard to
recreational facilities for families."
Camberley is expected to invest at least $20 million into what
would probably be a four- or five-star property.
To encourage other island properties to renovate, the government
passed legislation lowering the duty for capital expenditures made
by local hotels.
"We will see more projects with this incentive for the private
sector to upgrade," Dodwell said.
"Change is not all about marketing. It also is important to