NEW YORK -- Ewart
Brown, Bermuda's minister of transport and tourism, told a meeting
of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives here last week
that the island has "turned a corner" in its marketing and tourism
policies and was now ready to regain its place in the sun "by
reversing declines of the last two decades."
In a speech that
was occasionally acerbic and took repeated swipes at previous
policies, Brown, a physician, said that,
after a tourism boom in the 1970s and 1980s, "we rested on our
laurels and failed to respond to key indicators."
visitors got old," said Brown, "and their children came only once
-- on their honeymoons. There was a sense that you had to 'belong'
to travel to Bermuda because we appealed to a single demographic:
those with old money.
"Our drive toward
exclusivity made travelers feel excluded. Our hotels did not stay
sufficiently fresh. We continually failed in attempts to rebrand
and fell into a negative spiral."
As an example, the
tourism minister said, "When the first cruise ship sailed directly
from New York to the Bahamas without stopping in Bermuda, we should
have taken notice but didn't."
But changes to the
destination, including the entry of a low-fare carrier, a change in
message and investment in the island's hotel stock has contributed
to what Brown called "our most successful second quarter ever for
Visitor arrivals up 32%
The latest figures,
according to Bermuda tourism sources, show visitor arrivals up 32%
through August compared with the same period the previous year.
From the critical New York market, air arrivals were up 29% year
over year from January through August.
As the number of
air arrivals goes up, Brown said that the country will "selectively
reduce" the number of cruise ships that call on the island. "We've
made no secret of that," he said.
Cruise ships will
be steered away from Hamilton in order to "maintain that city's
The new cruise hub,
which can accommodate megaships, will be at the Royal Naval
Dockyard on the tip of the island.
Brown, who is the
first official to head a combined transport and tourism ministry,
was highly critical of "legacy airlines" for failing to lower
"extortionate fares" despite repeated importuning by the Bermuda
After four years of
courting the low-fare carrier, the entry of JetBlue into the New
York-Bermuda market, he said, has resulted in fares as low as $129
one way, "fares that have been matched by the other
"Rich people didn't
get rich by throwing away good money on a bad deal," Brown
As for exclusivity,
he said, "That has been a hard image to change, even among locals.
Our message now is that if you can afford to come you are welcome,
no matter how old your money is."
On the hotel front,
the minister said there would be a $1.6 billion investment in the
hospitality industry over the next two years, which he called "a
validation of our efforts."
He noted that
Ritz-Carlton would be opening a hotel in Hamilton and that a Hilton
vacation ownership property is taking over the Ariel Sands. He
added that serious discussions are under way for St. Regis, Four
Seasons and Regent properties.
Also, said Brown, a
trend toward smaller properties becoming private residences "has
seen a swing back, and now we are getting more applications to open
small hotels and resorts."
A younger demographic
Taking a swipe at
the Caribbean's all-inclusive resorts, Brown said, "We are not an
island of gated resorts. One of the things visitors like is the
openness of a visit to Bermuda, the ability to travel around the
Brown said that
Bermuda is aiming "to re-establish ourselves as the place to go for
a honeymoon. We will be having our second annual International Love
Festival in February."
Details have not
been announced, but the first festival last February featured such
special events as couples massage classes, champagne receptions and
In general, said
the minister, the island would aim at a younger demographic,
following a long period, said Brown, when "the complaint from
younger people was always, 'Borrinnngggg.' "
This past summer, a
Movies on the Beach event drew nearly 40,000 people over four
nights. Half of the attendees were visitors and half were locals, a
proportion "that is our ideal for all of our activities," Brown
festivals included Sandtastic Bermuda, featuring professional sand
sculpturing, the Under 19 World Beach Volleyball Championships, the
Bermuda Music Festival and the Bermuda Gourmet Getaway.
contact reporter Harvey Chipkin, send e-mail to [email protected].