BTA positive about working with new minister

  • Kevin Dallas, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The change in government will not have a significant impact on the Bermuda Tourism Authority, CEO Kevin Dallas said yesterday.

Speaking after the release of the latest tourism statistics, Mr Dallas said the BTA had a solid working relationship with the Progressive Labour Party and the new tourism minister Jamahl Simmons.

Dallas said: “Since the BTA was created, we are on our second government and our third tourism minister. One of the reasons the BTA was created was that in the past a new minister always meant a new direction and our strategy remains largely unchanged.

“We worked hard to earn bipartisan support, and we will continue to do that with the Government and shadow minister.”

The PLP has often been critical of the BTA, claiming that the OBA-created body lacked oversight or accountability. It also attacked declining tourism figures in 2014 and 2015.

However, the party pledged in its election platform to work in partnership with the authority and stakeholders to enhance the tourism industry.

Mr Dallas pointed to a good, long-running relationship with Simmons.

He said: “We had a productive, ongoing relationship since before I arrived. His shift into the minister’s chair obviously changes that relationship in some ways, but we have a strong working relationship to build on.”

Dallas added that he was not aware of any proposed changes to the BTA as a result of the new Government.

He said: “When we look at what was in the PLP’s platform, their language was they would support the BTA and work with the BTA, so we have not been led to believe that there is any intention to change the way in which we work, only to reinforce the way we work.

“That is governed by the Bermuda Tourism Authority Act, which sets out our role versus the ministry and what our reporting requirements are.”

Mr Dallas also noted that the PLP’s election platform had included legislative changes matching those recommended by the BTA.

“We laid out what we believe the legislative priorities for tourism should be in a statement and it was pleasing to see many of those things, in one way or another, in the new Government’s election platform,” he said.

“In particular the Tourism Investment Act, about modernising incentives for hotel and visitor attraction development, is in our priorities and in the platform.

“So is vacation rental, and providing a framework so that comes out of a grey space and continues to grow uninterrupted.”

Mr Dallas said the BTA would continue to target younger visitors, calling them one of the core focuses for the long-term future of the industry.

“They have the potential to come again and again, just like how a generation ago Bermuda latched on to a younger visitor and grew with them,” he said. “That was our focus before, and that is our focus today.

“The America’s Cup, I think, had a wide appeal. When you look at the attention we got it ticked those youth boxes.”

Dallas added that the BTA would still largely focus on the British and US markets, where there is still a great deal of room for growth.

He said: “If you look at the US market, and this is an oversimplification, Bermuda is the destination for half of one per cent of all outbound trips from the US.

“Doubling that number is a whole lot easier than activating China or India or anywhere in South America. And we know our marketing is well below the saturation point. We know that an additional dollar invested in the New York tri-state area, where we have five flights a day and the potential for more, is a dollar well spent.

“Until we are at full potential in our existing target cities, I don’t see a logic in including more, certainly not based on our budget.”