Tourism

Bermuda eyes African-American tourism market

  • Articulating the experience: Glenn Jones

Bermuda must go beyond black people in advertisements to attract African-American tourists, the head of the island’s tourism quango has warned.

Glenn Jones, the interim chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said that diversity in the organisation’s boardroom, as well as in promotional material, was vital to reach the growing market.

He said: “Our efforts to reach this audience cannot be only about representation in advertising. It has to be about black tourism businesses, articulating the experience around black Bermudian culture and also appreciating that those things matter to all travellers, when done in a smart and thoughtful way.”

Mr Jones said the BTA had worked to increase the number of African-Americans who visited the island — and tap into a lucrative market.

A study by US-based Mandala Research reported that the value of the African-American travel market had grown from $48 billion in 2010 to $63 billion in 2018.

But African-American tourists represent about 4 per cent of air visitors to Bermuda and the BTA announced in 2018 that it hoped to increase that figure to 8 per cent.

Mr Jones said: “When we made a strategic decision to pursue a larger amount of African-American visitors by air, we didn’t know what Black Lives Matter would be able to do when it comes to spending power, social justice and a lot of other things.

“It does appear those things are converging, so while they started very separately, I think they are organically converging and it brings greater attention and importance to the work we have been doing since 2018.”

Mr Jones was recently interviewed by New York City-based Skift magazine about the development of black travel marketing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The article highlighted that 40 per cent of the BTA’s senior management team was black, along with 55 per cent of those featured in major advertisements. Mr Jones said diversity behind the scenes was just as important as a mix in marketing materials.

He added: “Representation cannot be only about counting the colours of the faces in the ad. It has to be deeper than that.

“It includes having leadership that reflects the diversity of the place you represent but also the visitors you are trying to attract.”

Mr Jones said the BTA had not tracked every area of operations to ensure a diverse mix.

He added: “Movements like the one we are in now are going to make us think about that more.

“We have a good track record of things of that nature, but now we are going to be far more mindful.

“If that’s the attitude of every destination marketing organisation in the world, I think this movement we are in is very effective.”

Mr Jones said one of the BTA’s main targets for its marketing muscle could be Atlanta as the island prepared to reopen to tourists on July 1.

The city has in the past trailed behind northeastern cities such as New York and Boston as target destinations, but will be one of the first places to restart regular flights to Bermuda.

Mr Jones said: “Atlanta is a city that has the demographics of a target visitor that Bermuda is looking for, and that includes a large number of African-Americans.”

He added the National Tourism Plan had already highlighted Atlanta as a “nurture” city.

Mr Jones said: “On July 1, we will end our pause in marketing and no one should be surprised if one of those markets we go to is Atlanta. It’s one of the cities we were targeting long before Covid-19 and, as disruptive as the pandemic has been, our National Tourism Plan is still our north star and Atlanta is still one of the cities we care about.”

He added that the tourism industry would be even more competitive because of the high number of destinations desperate for revenue after the pandemic crisis.

Mr Jones said: “It’s going to be bare knuckles for sure, but the simplicity of what we have to offer is also our strength.

“We are super safe in terms of how we handled this pandemic, people feel good about health safety in Bermuda.

“We are super clean, and that’s something people automatically associate with being safe and healthy and we are closer than a lot of our competitors.

“If you only want to be on a plane for a short period, because you are only tipping your toe into the water, then Bermuda should be high on your consideration list.”