-- As the short Bermuda season comes to an end, hotel and tourist
officials are offering companion air fare credits to entice
visitors to the pink beaches and windswept golf courses of this
Atlantic island. Free hotel nights and discounts on greens fees
also are planned.
rates in August and September were not as robust as hoteliers had
hoped, and visitor estimates through February are also down. Some
place part of the blame on the flurry of hurricanes this year in
I am really
disappointed that the September numbers are lower than in the past,
and I think some of this is due to the total misunderstanding of
hurricanes, said Michael Winfield, president of the Bermuda Hotel
Association and president of Cambridge Beaches resort.
occupancy rate down
todays weather media, when discussing the positions of hurricanes,
always positions them against Bermuda whenever they turn north of
the Bahamas, he added. In reality, we have very few hurricanes, and
September is a gorgeous month.
But he and other
officials acknowledged hurricanes arent the only reason the island,
located 640 miles off the coast of North Carolina, has attracted
fewer visitors this fall.
The number of
visitors to Bermuda has been sliding since 1980, when more than
491,000 people arrived by air. This compares to about 272,000 air
arrivals in 2004. Though cruise-ship visitors to Bermuda have
increased in recent years, neither their numbers nor the cash
cruisers leave behind has made up for the slump in air
industry had been hoping to see a significant boost in visitors in
2005 after suffering steep declines following 9/11 and after
Hurricane Fabian lashed the island in the fall of 2003.
The first half of
this year showed promise. Visitor number were up 12% in the first
quarter and nearly 6% in the second quarter over the same periods
in 2004, according to the tourism and transport
rates, though healthy at 76% in the second quarter, declined to 70%
in August and were expected to be in the 50% to 60% range when
September numbers come in. Hoteliers said a successful year
requires occupancy rates around 85% in May through
Tourism is tough
everywhere, said Winfield. But most of us in the tourism industry
in Bermuda are concerned.
They dont want to
see a rerun of the mid-1990s, when several of its large hotels
permanently shut their doors.
One of the
biggest problems facing the island is expensive air fare. Efforts
by the tourism department have brought a discount carrier into the
market during the summer months. But more and cheaper flights are
A flight to
Bermuda generally costs more on a per-mile basis than almost
anywhere else in the world, said Winfield.
Though the island
is less than a two-hour flight from the East Coast, a plane ticket
there can cost more than a flight to Europe. Plus, flights from
Europe to Bermuda frequently are more expensive than entire
vacation packages to islands in the Caribbean and
In addition to
seeking more flights and lower air fares, tourism officials are
trying to enhance the islands exclusive-vacation-spot image into a
welcoming one that will appeal to more travelers.
allowed its brand, its image in the marketplace, to become fuzzy,
Winfield said. We have failed to separate us from the herd of other
islands and to explain just how different, how special we
Winfield said the
hotel association is working with the tourism and transport
department to come up with more enticing promotions for North
Weve got some
major promotions in the works, including air credit to travelers
booking three and four nights, he said.
The program, Compliments of Bermuda, offers a $300 credit on a
companions air fare to the island Nov. 1 to April 18 (the golf and
spa season) for a minimum three-night hotel stay. (Bookings must be
made by Feb. 28.)
hotel partners likely will include most major resorts. Free hotel
nights and discounts on greens fees also are planned.
information, call (800) 237-6832 or visit www.bermudatourism.com or the hotel associations site
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].