Home is where the heart is: Dr. Ewart Brown relaxes Wednesday at Gombey House, the house he designed and decorated. He’s happy here, which is why he’s decided not to move into the Premier’s official residence, Camden. Photo by Nigel Regan
Home is where the heart is: Dr. Ewart Brown relaxes Wednesday at Gombey House, the house he designed and decorated. He’s happy here, which is why he’s decided not to move into the Premier’s official residence, Camden. Photo by Nigel Regan
Ewart Brown was in the Bahamas last weekend for the Michael Jordan golf tournament. You wouldn't think it could get much better than that, but all everyone was talking about was how great it will be when Bermuda hosts the PGA Grand Slam later this year.

Dr. Brown, a former athlete, sees the value of sport. He believes if nothing else can bring us together, sport will. And that's why it's worth the investment.

It's one of several things we've got to look forward to this year, not least of which is the continuation of last year's tourism renaissance and the arrival of two major hotel developers.

Back to sport, Dr. Brown says: "Bermuda has, for too long, enjoyed and played games instead of developing sports. This government is committed to sports and our commitment has been confirmed by the financial expenditure to cricket and, in the near future, a similar expenditure for football."

Does that mean the Bermuda Football Association is about to get what it's been asking for to help raise the standard of the game here?

Dr. Brown says he doesn't want to "steal the minister's thunder" and that we can expect an announcement next week.

He continued: "I have a strong belief that sports and development of sports in Bermuda will go a long way in improving the national spirit. In every country where there has been a rise in sports you have seen a hardening of the glue with respect to national spirit."

So is this what we've all been waiting for?

"Sport has the potential to be great. If human beings celebrate sports together there's a greater chance that they will come to know one another. I am convinced then when that happens, human beings break the barriers that are placed between them, because they don't happen naturally."

If that's the goal, it's worth every penny, Dr. Brown says. "Some people see it as a chicken and egg situation, but I think you have to win before you get people's attention and in order to win you have to be prepared to spend money."

With that to look forward to, add the Grand Slam.

"That event will provide massive exposure for Bermuda, internationally, but in particular our target markets," he said. Add Tiger Woods, and that's more exposure.

His next observation is designed to help us connect with the big picture that's taking shape right now.

"The only downside," Dr. Brown says, "is that in the first two years of the tournament we still won't be up to capacity in terms of hotel beds. But if the PGA is happy and we are happy, then the tournament will be here for many years."

And that's one of the reasons we're seeing movement in the hotel industry and the granting of Special Development Orders. Bermuda hasn't had a new hotel for 35 years; it takes an incredible amount of effort to attract the big players. Now we've got two of them, we have to take advantage of what Dr. Brown calls "a very small window."

Addressing the SDO issue, Dr. Brown says: "It's of national importance that we capitalize on an opportunity to revive tourism.

"The country has committed itself to develop tourism as a pillar of the economy, therefore when the window has opened to develop new properties, we must capitalize."

Critics argue the government has been too casual in issuing the SDOs. Dr. Brown disagrees, saying: "The SDO has been used over the years in many instances, some larger, some smaller and if these small ones qualify for SDOs, surely these hotels of national importance should go that route."

The main critics appear to be 'environmentalists' and the political opposition. Dr. Brown addresses both.

"It is un-Bermudian not to want fix tourism. Some people don't want it fixed under the PLP," he says.

These people, along with environmentalists, argues Dr. Brown, base too many of their criticisms on assumptions. "Some people call themselves environmentalists when they are really anti-concrete. Being against concrete doesn't make you an environmentalist. Sustainable development gets thrown around as something that precludes the building of new properties. If we cannot sustain three, four, five hotels in Bermuda then we should go back to the drawing board. But we believe that is the way to go."

It's all politics, he says. "Most people know that the government is making strides in critical areas. They know it and they quietly acknowledge it. But in a society where the white vote is considered automatically UBP then those people cannot be heard to support the Government.

"Flip the coin. If this were a UBP Government bringing hotel developments and the PGA tournament, those same people would support the Government."

It's taken a lot of work to get this far, but in a highly charged political climate like ours, that work is sometimes put through the presses and spun to suit a certain audience.

Dr. Brown cites his trip last year to Dubai as the perfect example.

He said: "There were detractors who said the trip to Dubai was a waste of time and money and all about Ewart Brown having a taxpayer-paid trip to Dubai. Well, less than nine months after that, the Jumeirah group, who operate the world's only seven star hotel in Dubai, wants to develop the Southlands site." The company's CEO will be in Bermuda next week.

Dr. Brown considers the new commitments to build hotels extremely encouraging. "It's the most exciting component of the tourism renaissance," he said.

The lack of hotel development was one of our real downfalls, he continued. "Things were so good in the '70s that after 1972 when the Southampton Princess was built, Government declared a moratorium on hotel development, which meant the success of the '70s was confined to a prescribed and limited number of hotels."

Instead of clinging to the past, Bermuda has to move forward. Dr. Brown knows change is never easy, but he also knows it doesn't always have to be presented as the worst thing that ever happened.

From where's sitting he says: "It's going to be a good year."