Capital gains: Bermuda opens D.C. sales office

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WASHINGTON -- The Bermuda Department of Tourism opened a sales office here just a short walk from the White House as part of an aggressive effort to capture a share of the capital's leisure and business travel markets.

The opening of the four-person office at 1420 New York Ave. N.W. is timed to coincide with the July 7 start of US Airways' direct air service to Bermuda out of Reagan National Airport, according to David Allen, the island's minister of tourism.

"The airport is 10 minutes from downtown Washington," Allen said.

"Then, after another one-hour, 15-minute flight, you are in Bermuda. It is a quick getaway for Washingtonians as well as people living in Maryland and northern Virginia."

However, convenient air service isn't the only reason Bermuda decided to establish a presence in the nation's capital.

"I thought [not having a Washington sales office] was a gap in our marketing efforts," Allen said.

So the tourism office, which has some 40 sales representatives working in the U.S., reorganized, Allen said.

Among other things it closed a sales office in Los Angeles, which has no direct air service to Bermuda, and "redeployed" some of the staff from that office to Washington.

"We want to re-emphasize our group and incentive business and national association business," Allen said.

Washington is home to at least 5,000 national associations, according to the city's tourism office.

"Washington offers people with considerable disposable income," he said.

Indeed, recent Census Bureau figures show Washington has a high degree of households earning $100,000 or more.

Furthermore, Allen said, "We are doing a lot of diversity marketing. We are keen to welcome more African-Americans. Washington is an important African-American market, and it has one of the most affluent African-American communities in the country in Prince George's County [in Maryland, adjacent to the district]. So that is a good fit, too."

Allen said the sales office will be working with US Airways to promote the new air service to Bermuda in the coming weeks through advertisements and direct-mail pieces.

"This is a major commitment for us," Allen said.

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