Bermuda’s new Tourism Authority is up and running. With $23,097,000 of taxpayers’ money, some $6m [26%] of which consists of funds borrowed from overseas, the BTA ought to be running.  But from the “noises” being made in the stream of media releases and statements, I do not see or hear the BTA recognizing Bermuda’s 2014 Tourist Industry reality.

So far, what I’ve seen and heard shows and tells that the BTA are snuffling around in Bermuda’s past, seeking to recreate the national ‘living room’ atmosphere that once made Bermuda a renowned, unique, and premier Land Destination that was expensive but worth the price.

’T’aint so now. Won’t be so again. Why? Two reasons. First, Bermuda, but more particularly Bermudians, have withdrawn from Tourism and have re-allocated scarce national and human resources.  Second, there has been a global structural shift in how that all-important person, the paying customer, sees Bermuda.

In 2003, Land Destination Bermuda converted to Cruise Destination Bermuda. From a high-end magnet to a low-end draw.From carpet to boardwalk. The chart illustrates that change.

Excluding people visiting family and friends and business visitors; in 2003, Cruise Arrivers marginally outnumbered leisure seeking Air Arrivers. The fifty-year-old five-to-one and four-to-one balances between air and cruise dropped to one-to-one.

The change became blatantly obvious in 2006 when there were 336,000 Cruise Arrivals and — including family and friends and business visitors — a total of 299,000 Air Arrivals. So 2006 was the year of absolute change.

In 2012, there were 378,000 cruise and 232,000 Air. Taking out the business and family Air Arrivers left about 160,000 Leisure Tourists arriving by air in 2012. So by 2012, the balance was even more pronounced at more than two Cruise for every one air. But is this changing?

From 2003 to 2013, 3.5 million paying customers saw, bought, and experienced Bermuda as a Cruise Destination. Afterwards, these millions of customers went home and told their multi-millions of friends and acquaintances about Cruise Destination Bermuda.

The figures confirm that Bermuda began trending towards a Cruise Destination in 1991. The trend was confirmed when, in 2000, Cruise Arrivers topped the 200,000 mark. 

Air Arrivers began trending down from 1987. In 2001, all Air Arrivers dipped under 300,000.  But Leisure Air Arrivers fell below 200,000 and — except for the exceptional year 2007 — have not been above that since.

More than two decades of records show that Cruise Arrivers spend between $0.19 and $0.25 for every $1.00 spent by an Air Arriver. It takes four to five Cruise Arrivers to equal the spending of one Air Arriver. In 2013, Cruise Arrivers spent $72.8m and Air Arrivers spent $318.2m. In 2013, for every $0.23 spent by a Cruise Arriver, an Air Arriver spent $1.00

The figures show that Cruise Arrivers are low-end, Air Arrivers high-end.

So far, the BTA seems to be seeking to return to a past that the rest of the world — the all-important customer — sees, buys, and experiences as passé.

Why, then, does the BTA support enhancing the North Channel in order to allow even bigger mega-ships to bring in even greater numbers of low-spending Cruisers? 

Should the BTA be encouraging the arrival of even more low-enders while they spout about high-end ‘Land Destination’ Bermuda?

Surely, surely, surely, even the slowest of Marketing 101 students understands that no one can successfully market the same single 13,000 acre isolated commodity as a High-end destination AND as a Low-end Destination.

Surely, surely, surely, everyone must understand that Tiffany’s cannot succeed as Tiffany’s if it also sells Kay’s jewellery across the same counter in the same shop in the same mall. Surely.

Yet that is precisely what the BTA is doing. Marketing to High-end and Low-end in the same package.

Perhaps the new BTA is already crazy-glued to an ancient Bermudian belief that is slowly dying its death. 

That is, that today’s Bermuda is so special that all over the world, all high-end spenders will ignore all obstacles and fly to Bermuda in order to spend $500 a night here, even though Bermuda could be crawling with $50 a day Low-enders. And all in the same space with virtually no exclusivity for High-end Air Arrivals.

The BTA’s true measure will be whether or not they recreate and re-engineer Bermuda as a new premium Land Destination. Concentration on Cruisers works exactly opposite to that.

So far, the BTA is making wrong noises and wrong moves.