Bermuda hotels enter the value fray, keeping their dignity intact

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BERM-HamiltonBermuda's hotel stock is expanding.

The economic and travel slump has prompted hoteliers here to offer travel promotions, value-adds and targeted discounts, in some cases reaching consumers that might not have considered a vacation on Bermuda.

Bermuda's tourism numbers dropped nearly 8% in the second quarter, to 203,061 visitors, and visitors staying in commercial accommodations dropped 16.5%.

Jon Crellin, general manager of the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, which along with sister property the Fairmont Southampton constitutes the biggest block of hotel rooms on Bermuda, said that the hotels had not offered value packages during the summer season until this year.

A Travelzoo promotion that the Fairmont Southampton tested earlier this summer, for example, offered rates as low as $99 a night, down from more typical $300- to $500-per-night rates. More than 15,000 room nights were booked as a result, Crellin said.

The Fairmonts were also part of a group of hotels participating in a 400th Anniversary promotion, which offered up to a $400 resort credit for a four-night stay. According to Ewart Brown, the island's premier, the offer produced an incremental 15,164 room nights as of June 30.

"For the first time in a long while, the customer was getting premium hotel properties on sale, so to speak," said Billy Griffith, Bermuda's director of tourism.

Crellin said the promotions helped draw new visitors: "We had some people saying, 'Thanks for the great offer, and we'll be back; I've never come here because I perceived it to be too expensive.' "

Still, Bermuda has built its reputation as an upscale resort destination -- in its "travel tips" brochures it describes the island atmosphere as "one of British reserve and dignified informality" -- and its positioning isn't changing. The island continues to go after what the Department of Tourism calls "the urbane traveler," the upwardly mobile consumer with a household income of $135,000 and up.

The message of a new ad campaign produced under the direction of Bermuda's tourism team in New York, meanwhile, was carefully scrutinized. "Given that Bermuda's competitors are relying on slashing prices to drive visitation, without concerns for the effects of this behavior on the brand, it was clear the new campaign would need to sell the island without cheapening the brand," Brown said in a speech earlier this month.

Griffith estimated that there was a 3% to 4% increase in hotel rooms in the past 14 months, including the opening of the Tucker's Point Hotel and Spa near Tucker's Town and Newstead Belmont Hill's new product in Hamilton.

And hotels have been revitalizing their offerings. The Reefs, for example, debuted a new look and an upgraded spa this spring. And Crellin said the Fairmont Hamilton Princess was in the midst of a $20 million capital investment program.

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