Spending is up but arrivals are down

  • Signs of encouragement: Bermuda Tourism Authority chief executive Kevin Dallas is “excited about new hotel inventory and big-brand events” on the horizon (File photograph Paul Johnston)

Tourist air arrivals have dropped 6 per cent compared with the same time last year, but spending in the sector went up, figures from the Bermuda Tourism Authority revealed yesterday.

Reduced capacity and storms were thought to have affected the number of people that travelled to the island during the third quarter.

The BTA added that 2019 was forecast to be the second-best year — after 2018 — for leisure air arrivals since 2006.

Kevin Dallas, the BTA chief executive, said: “Visitor spending is a key metric that underscores overall industry profitability, so we’re glad to see year-over-year growth to date in the money visitors are pumping into our economy.

“Both Humberto and Jerry were back-to-back factors that reduced the number of visitors able to travel to Bermuda this past quarter, along with fewer airline seats.

“We’re heartened to see per-person spending by air visitors increasing. It’s also pleasing to note cruise arrivals that extend into the fall are on the rise — a key objective in Bermuda’s National Tourism Plan.”

The BTA figures showed that leisure air arrivals were down 7.2 per cent to 69,714 in the third quarter, 5,371 people fewer than the 75,085 recorded in the same period in 2018.

By this time last year, Bermuda had welcomed 168,005 holidaymakers and leisure visitors by air, compared with 157,977 so far in 2019 — 10,028 fewer people and a 6 per cent drop.

The figure for 2017 was 147,833, with 68,335 of those in the third quarter.

The BTA said drops in air arrivals for vacation and leisure visits could be “partially attributed” to flight cancellations caused by the Category 3 Hurricane Humberto on September 18 “followed by trepidation” from travellers over the threat of Tropical Storm Jerry.

The tourism authority added that the storms came alongside “fewer seats originating in the core New York market following schedule changes out of John F. Kennedy International Airport”, which it said reduced air capacity by 4.8 per cent in the third quarter and 4.6 per cent in the year so far.

The BTA said: “Overall, however, 2019 is shaping up to record the second-highest level of leisure air arrivals since 2006.”

Air-arrival leisure visitors spent $112 million in the three months from July to September compared with $113.75 million in the same period last year.

But the year-to-date total increased by 1.1 per cent in 2019 to $248.67 million.

The BTA added that per-person spending by business and leisure air visitors “jumped a healthy 5.6 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively, for Q3”, as well as by 16 per cent and 7.6 per cent respectively in the year so far.

Lower numbers of leisure visitors had a knock-on effect on hotel occupancy, which recorded a 4.4 per cent drop in quarter three to less than 75 per cent occupancy during the three month period this year, compared with more than 78 per cent in 2018.

Hotel occupancy has been 64.4 per cent so far this year — less than the 67.4 per cent last year and 65.5 per cent in 2017. The BTA said: “Vacation rentals were also down for the period.

“Overall, a total of 67 per cent of all leisure air visitors chose hotel accommodation in Q3, compared to 11 per cent who stayed in rental homes or apartments.”

Increases in cruise passenger arrivals during “non-summer months” were said to have helped drive up figures for the third quarter as well as the year-to-date.

The BTA said that 215,511 passengers visited during the three-month period in 2019, compared with 190,115 and 200,455 in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

It added: “That growth jumped to 14.2 per cent for the year-over-year nine-month tally, registering 447,006 visitors to September 30 — some 55,712 more than in 2018.

“Increases in the January-to-April period and again in September, underscored success in making the island a year-round destination.”

Mr Dallas said: “Despite the continued challenges of airline inventory and recent storm interruptions, we are excited about new hotel inventory on the near horizon, as well as successful big-brand event partnerships like the just concluded PGA Tour Bermuda Championship.

“Both will help build Bermuda’s brand reputation, boost visitor numbers into the future and offset constraints.”

To view the Tourism Measures third-quarter results, click on the PDF link under “Related Media