Bill Hanbury. *File photo by Nicola Muirhead
Bill Hanbury. *File photo by Nicola Muirhead

The Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO says the island can expect a slight increase in both airport and cruise passenger arrivals this tourist season based on current projections.

Bill Hanbury was selected head of the newly created authority earlier this year. The new operation was created to foster growth in an industry that has declined in recent years. Now, rounding into his first tourism season on the island, Mr Hanbury said his organization will emphasize on-line media exposure as a key part of its strategy.

“Digital banners promoting Bermuda’s assets are being featured prominently in key sites and there is soon to be a much more robust presence in the social media space,” said Hanbury through a statement.

Mr Hanbury said there will be a stronger brand push and a marketing officer will join the authority in June to “spearhead this new direction”.

“We are finalizing the visual branding of all of our Visitor Information Centres. This will form a part of a more cohesive brand experience for visitors and residents,” he said.

Pat Phillip-Fairn, the authority’s chief product and experience development officer, meanwhile, said change to the island’s industry will be a gradual process.

She said: “One of the key points behind the BTA’s support for such activities via that initiative is our encouraging service providers to ensure their proposals are properly aligned with the major objectives of the National Tourism Plan, the major goal being for them to bring greater numbers of visitors to the island.

“We are also placing emphasis on the need to provide visitors with quality experiences that showcase attributes the island can deliver on to a high standard today, via partnerships here and overseas.”

Bermuda, she said, needs to foster further collaboration among “those directly involved in the industry as well as support from the wider community, to ensure the visitor experience is consistently positive, and reflects pride in sharing Bermuda’s attributes.”

Not everyone is convinced the island will bear the fruits of the new authority this year. Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert, for one, was not ready to heap praise on the new entity.

“First, if there are improvements in tourism it’s not because of the tourism authority,” he said.

Tourism stats will be boosted this year, he said, in part because of the Newport Bermuda Race, which is a tourist attraction that occurs every other year.

Mr Furbert also thought a $1 million 2012 investment in marketing for convention business in Bermuda could bear fruit this season.

Marketing

“I think what you’re seeing is the result of marketing in the early part of 2012,” he said.

But does he expect the tourism season to differ from last year?

“I can’t answer that. What is going to be different? Nothing is clear at all. They’re following the national tourism plan. They have a new leader and he may have some more contacts. The only difference is the government can’t answer questions. But we support the board. I hope they benefit Bermuda.”

Philip Barnett, the president of Island Restaurant Group and founding member of the Tourism Authority board, was optimistic about this upcoming season’s prospects.

“We all live in everlasting hope that things could get better or we would have left a long time ago,” he said. “The right steps have been made. Tourism is a business and it needs to be run as such.”

But is it too soon to expect the new tourism entity to produce results?

“I think there’s no better time than the present, but I think just like starting a new business, nothing happens overnight. Only recently has the structure been put into place. Necessary individuals are being hired,” he said.

He added, “If you continually do the same things over and over again, the classic line is that you’re going to get the same results. The tourism authority is trying new and innovative things. And that causes change. What people should understand is that change isn’t always easy but it’s what is necessary to evolve.”