Air visitor arrivals dropped by 5 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2019, with the sharpest falls in the number of younger visitors and arrivals from New York, the tourism authority said yesterday.
However, the air arrivals spent 7 per cent more per person — a 1.4 per cent increase in total air visitor arrival spending.
Kevin Dallas, the chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said: “In the hospitality business, visitor spending is a metric most closely tied to profitability.
“We’re very pleased to see economic growth in the first half of the year. However, we remain concerned airlift challenges will continue to negatively affect air arrivals in 2019.
“We raised this red flag at the start of the year, and since then, our team has closed the deal on big-brand event partnerships, including the US Open and the PGA Tour’s inaugural Bermuda Championship. These are purposeful steps that can help us offset the constraints on airlift.”
Figures released by the BTA showed the number of air visitor arrivals fell from 66,604 to 64,175 in the second quarter, with the greatest loss — 1,974 people — in the 25 to 34 age bracket.
Combined with a decrease in air arrivals in the first quarter, total air visitor arrivals fell from 92,920 to 88,263 — 5 per cent — in the first six months of the year.
The lower number of leisure air visitors also caused a decrease in hotel occupancy, which fell 3.3 per cent year-on-year in the quarter and 4.4 per cent in the first half of 2019.
But the visitors who arrived in Bermuda by air between April and June spent a total of 2.4 per cent more on the island — $98.5 million compared with $96.2 million in the same period last year, an increase of $2.3 million.
Air visitors spent a total of almost $132 million in the first six months of the year.
Mr Dallas explained: “After twelve consecutive quarters of leisure air arrival growth dating back to January 2016, the sharp increases Bermuda experienced over the past three years are levelling off. This is not unexpected and not overly worrying, because our overall trajectory is strong.
“In fact, statistically, 2019 is outpacing 2017, which at that time was a record-breaking year.”
He added: “With new hotel inventory, new marketing partnerships and new on-island experiences on the way in the next several years and visitor spending on the rise, we believe the future for Bermuda’s tourism industry remains the brightest it’s been in a generation.”
The decline in air visitors was also blamed on a drop in the number of seats available from New York to Bermuda in the first half of the year.
A BTA spokeswoman said: “At the BTA’s Outlook Forum back in February, officials warned that while 2018 leisure air arrival numbers had reached a 16-year high and third consecutive year of growth, business and visiting friends and relatives travel had declined sharply — down more than 30 per cent since 2007.
“This scenario is impacting the amount of inventory airlines assigned to Bermuda.”
Cruise ship passenger arrivals were up in the first half of the year, with a 15 per cent year-on-year increase, up from 201,179 to 231,495 — 30,316 people.
The cruise ship passenger increase meant boosted tourism figures in the first six months of the year, with 319,758 total leisure visitors this year compared to 294,099 in the same period in 2018 — a total of 25,659 people.
• To view the statistics in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”