Bermuda Offers Five-Year Plan to Boost Tourism

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HAMILTON -- Why should a destination as beautiful, safe and accessible as Bermuda be steadily losing business to other destinations?

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 tourists.

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 deliver."

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