Island scores record tourism figures

  • Looking good: Bermuda has scored record-high tourism figures for the last 12 months (Photograph supplied)

Bermuda recorded its highest tourism numbers last year, but visitor air arrivals dropped by 6 per cent.

The increase to more than 808,240 tourists was fuelled by a record 535,561 cruise ship passengers, up 51,222 on the previous year, or 10.6 per cent.

Air arrivals, however, fell by 12,280 from 203,697 to 191,417 over the same period, although the Bermuda Tourism Authority highlighted it was still the second-highest air arrival figure since 2006.

There was a total of 770,683 tourists in 2018.

Total visitor spending last year increased by $6.5 million or 1.6 per cent to $417.5 million.

Kevin Dallas, the chief executive of the BTA, said the authority predicted a drop in air numbers at the start of last year.

He added: “On the upside, our long-view gains were more robust than anticipated, so the industry and all of Bermuda should feel upbeat about that.

“Sustained double-digit growth in air arrivals and spending through 2018 positioned us well to respond to short-term challenges and we continue to see green shoots fuelling the island’s tourism resurgence.

“Investors, for example, are showing clear confidence in our tourism product, which is moving the island strategically towards growth.”

Bermuda Tourism Authority figures for 2019 showed a 5 per cent drop in air capacity after two airlines cut flights from New York.

Flight schedules from Boston were also reduced.

The BTA report said the total number of tourist arrivals was up 4.9 per cent year on year, and that 2019 marked the third consecutive year with record-breaking numbers.

Mr Dallas added airlift capacity was expected to fall more this year, which could hit growth prospects.

He said a decline over the past 12 years in business travel and people visiting friends and family in Bermuda contributed to difficulties in getting enough airline service.

Mr Dallas added: “Achieving strong airlift demands growth in all our markets; leisure travel, business travel, friends and relatives travel and residents travel.

“It’s a delicate balance and when one or more of these sectors suffers, especially in non-summer months, it hurts the overall picture.

“Bermuda is in a far better position to attract more capacity when we have growth across the board.”

Mr Dallas said that air capacity was a “worldwide challenge”, but the BTA had joined forces with the Government and airport operators Skyport to hire air service development consultants.

He added: “Global competition remains fierce. Maintaining our strongest air routes and building on already established relationships with key airlines will be critical to our success.”

The BTA report said that the biggest growth in cruise ship arrivals happened outside the traditional summer peak months.

It added, the 15 per cent growth in the off season showed the authority’s strategy of using cruise travel to boost numbers for winter, spring and autumn had worked.

January and February 2019 both saw major increases in cruise ship arrivals; 8,253 cruise ship visitors came to the island in those two months in 2019 compared to just 602 in the year before.

November also saw an increase in cruise ship passengers, from 18,620 to 28,155, but that increase was countered by a decrease from 7,996 to 872 in December.

The BTA said there were several other potential sources of tourism growth.

The body highlighted the new airport terminal and hotel projects, such as Azura Bermuda and the Bermudiana Beach Resort/Tapestry Collection by Hilton, both Warwick and the St Regis hotel development in St George’s.

The BTA said the recently announced sales of the Fairmont Southampton and the St George’s Club showed investor confidence in the tourism industry.

The report added the BTA will continue to promote the island through media collaborations and multiyear partnerships with the US Open, the PGA Tour and the Clipper Round the World Race.

New legislation designed to encourage superyachts to spend more time in Bermuda also came into force this year.

Mr Dallas said the national tourism plan would continue to guide the work of the BTA in the long term.

He added: “It continues to engage Bermuda stakeholders and point a collaborative way forward — from infrastructure improvements to greater year-round visitor balance and greener, more sustainable approaches.

“That should keep us all focused on fruitful longer gains amid near-term challenges.”