Making Bermuda “relevant again” in tourism is an ambitious goal for the island, David Burt has admitted.
The Premier described the challenge now faced as “a huge task”.
He said: “But there are plans laid out which have been followed by other jurisdictions, and in the modern era it has to be a mix of celebrity, which brings relevance, and then working with the private sector to go ahead in promoting brands.”
The Premier added the portfolio to his responsibilities on July 16 after Zane DeSilva, the former minister, resigned from the post.
Although Mr Burt started out with criticism of the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s marketing of the island, he insisted his administration’s plans had not changed.
He said: “We’re continuing on the same policy that minister DeSilva had articulated, and the same with demanding accountability from the Bermuda Tourism Authority while increasing our audience.
“There is no difference in policy — he followed on the footsteps of minister Jamahl Simmons, who was instrumental in the revisions of the national tourism plan.”
Mr Burt added: “The language may be different but the policy is the same.”
In his first weeks in charge of tourism, Mr Burt has invoked celebrity as a means for getting the island back on the map for would-be visitors.
“Barbados has a local celebrity, Rihanna, who is able to do her thing,” Mr Burt said. “We also have Bermudians that have ties.”
Mr Burt gave the example of Shiona Turini, the Bermudian stylist and costume designer involved in last year’s film Queen & Slim. He said: “I was taken aback when she called me looking for help to try to get the acclaimed movie, which she played a part in and won an award, into the Bermuda International Film Festival.
“I think we forsake our own people. We use the contacts that we have. We have to make sure that we build on those contacts.”
Mr Burt said it could be “a little tricky and challenging” because famous visitors often valued their privacy here.
“Bermuda is a place where celebrities like to come because no one cares that they’re here — if you understand what I’m saying.
“We also need to recognise that in an era of marketing in 2020, where there’s a huge amount of marketing on social media, we need to do things that are culturally relevant — whether that’s with the arts combined with celebrity, combined with brands that go ahead and assist us in sponsoring events — to find ways to make the country more relevant and top-of-mind.”
“When people come to the country, they love it. We have to find ways to get people here year-round, and that cannot just be from sand and our beautiful waters. You can find those in other places as well.”
The Premier was confident that the dwindling of Covid-19 locally, while cases soar elsewhere in the world, would prove a draw for visitors.
The island has strict rules on tests for incoming passengers, social-distancing and the use of masks, which he said were “continuing to bear dividends through the Bermuda Tourism Authority”.
Mr Burt added: “I was speaking to hoteliers this weekend. Because of how well we’ve been able to do and because we’re so close to our major travel markets like New York, when those flights come on we’re going to expect to see more of an uptick.
“That’s not going to stop us from the stringent, stringent requirements for testing that we have.”