Putting bums in seats is the aim of the Bermuda Tourism Board. It was the weather that kept tourists off the beaches yesterday but tourism chiefs admit a new approach is needed to keep the deckchairs filled year round. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Putting bums in seats is the aim of the Bermuda Tourism Board. It was the weather that kept tourists off the beaches yesterday but tourism chiefs admit a new approach is needed to keep the deckchairs filled year round. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16: Bermuda should consider establishing a Tourism Authority to safeguard the future of the industry.

That is the view of key members of a board set up to establish a roadmap for the future of the
industry.

Vince Ingham, deputy chair of the Tourism Board, said a non-political ‘authority’ would help put long-term strategies in place and ensure the industry was not affected by changes in Government.

Mr Ingham was speaking during a public question and answer session in Hamilton on Wednesday night as the Tourism Board went on the road to consult the public over its plan.

The long-awaited blueprint for the future of the industry is now expected ‘some time in the first quarter of 2012’.

Asked about the concept of a Tourism Authority, Mr Ingham argued that giving powers of oversight to the current board would be a good first step.

Strategy

“The marketplace is becoming more challenging if we have consistency in terms of management and strategy we will be in a better position to navigate those challenges,” he told the crowd of around 60 people at the Heritage Worship Centre.

Speaking to the Bermuda Sun yesterday, he added: “There should be a conversation as to whether some of these activities (promotion and development of tourism) might be better served by some sort of Tourism Authority.

“Our view is that there is value in giving more authority to the board, because in the long term it will serve the best interests of tourism.

“We have done that with the Education Board and we are seeing benefits.”

He said the public consultation process was important and no final decisions would be made until the people had a chance to give their input.

Members of the board, including Mr Ingham, chairman Malcolm Butterfield and Maxwell Burgess, outlined some of their ideas at three public meetings in Somerset, Hamilton and St George’s this week.

They outlined ‘hot button’ issues including — maintaining and expanding the airlift to the island, improving entertainment, making a decision on gaming, progressing new developments and improving public transport.

Mr Ingham said ensuring one or more of the seven developments ‘zoned for tourism’ turned into a new hotel.

“Our view is that we have to get those properties back into play.

“We must look very proactively at doing that. At the same time, we need to focus on existing properties to ensure we don’t lose ground as we try to break new ground.

Members of the audience spoke overwhelmingly in favour of introducing gaming.

Audience member Anthony Mocklow, director of golf at the Fairmont Southampton, said it was action not talk that was needed.

“Gaming is a non-issue — we’ve got to have it. The rest of the world has proved the case for everything on your power point presentation. Don’t waste any more time or money just do it.”

Another audience member warned that Bermuda needed to get more young people involved in the tourism plan because the nightlife was boring and people came here to ‘go to sleep’.

Ken Dallas, owner of watersports business Fantasea, questioned why the plan was taking so long and suggested futher subsidies may be required to keep airlines coming to Bermuda.

Others raised concerns about public transport for the disabled and over-reliance on cruise ships.

Board member Maxwell Burgess said it made economic sense to pursue more air visitors.

“We are in the process of determining what that mix should be. We are leaning towards scaling down the numbers of cruise ship passengers with a view to increasing land stays by way of air
arrivals.”