Will they bite in the Big Apple? Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert being interviewed yesterday by Tamsen Fadal, host for WPIX-TV, New York. *Photo supplied
Will they bite in the Big Apple? Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert being interviewed yesterday by Tamsen Fadal, host for WPIX-TV, New York. *Photo supplied

FRIDAY, FEB. 17: Air arrivals from New York and New Jersey have fallen for the fourth year in succession.

And the number of visitors coming to Bermuda from the UK in 2011 was the lowest since 2004.

The latest tourism statistics unveiled by the Government indicate that overall, 655,236 visitors came to the island in 2011, the second highest number in history.

The figures also state that air arrivals were up by 1.63 per cent, while U.S. air arrivals went up by four per cent, compared to the previous year.

But air arrivals data also reveals a significant downward trend affecting New York, New Jersey and the UK.

In 2011 31,260 passengers Jersey and the UK.

In 2011 31,260 passengers came to Bermuda from New York; a drop of just over 11 per cent from 2010 and the lowest figure since before 2002.

In 2006 and 2007 more than 45,000 New Yorkers flew to Bermuda.

Similarly the number of air visitors from New Jersey fell by just under 10 per cent in 2011 to 18,061; again the lowest figure since before 2002.

These gateways account for two of the top three places in the US where visitors come to Bermuda from and represent just over 20 per cent of the US market.

Just yesterday Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert was in New York City drumming up support for the Bermuda product and meeting with top media representatives.

Mr Furbert said: “I was pleased to hear very strong feedback and interest from the media about Bermuda.

“The media with whom we met represented some of North America’s most influential outlets and it was an important opportunity to stimulate their interest in covering our Island.”

Director of Tourism, William Griffith, added: “We would always be concerned by any downturn from major markets but we are always seeking alternatives for best potential opportunities.

“A case in point is the USA. Both Jetblue and Continental reduced their New York services by one flight each in 2011, compared to 2010. This contributed to losses out of New York and New Jersey but this was more that offset by gains out of Baltimore and Atlanta, especially.

“The net gain of 4 per cent out of the USA is a clear example of diversifying our efforts to match the changes in the marketplace.

“This coming season our attention will be to maximize the new service opportunity from Washington, DC as well as the strengthening of Airtran’s feeder services with their new ownership by Southwest.

“Services like Charlotte with USAir and Halifax with Air Canada will be important ones from secondary markets.

“The New York market is still the most important one and the Ministry of Transport is constantly working and negotiating to regain some of the lift from this region.”

Mr Giffith admitted that demand from the UK market was a concern.

Seven per cent drop

The latest statistics show that 21,524 people flew into Bermuda from the UK in 2011; a drop of just over seven per cent from the previous year. That air arrivals figure for the UK is the lowest recorded since 2004.

Furthermore a month-by-month breakdown of 2011 shows there were only two months when more passengers arrived in Bermuda from the UK than the previous year: April and June.

The decreases in the 10 other months ranged from 4.4 per cent in September to 18.4 per cent in March.

Marianne Wilcox, British Airways Bermuda Manager said: “Obviously this is a concern for us. In a time of recession people are looking to cut back.

“We are showing a six per cent overall decline although our business travel seems to be holding its own. It is the leisure market that is suffering. In my opinion it’s about what Bermuda is offering people. A lot of places are competing for the leisure market and people want more than just beaches.

“Visitors from the UK will come for between 10 days and two weeks and people are looking for value for money.

“It is quite expensive here and maybe the loss of UK expats means there are not as many friends and families coming in as there used to be. These figures are the worst we have seen for a long time and I do not believe it comes down to the fares.

“We have massive demand for places like the Maldives, Mauritius and South Africa at the moment. The planes are full.

“We have seat sales and promotions in Bermuda and we hope it will turn around and get back to the way it used to be.”

Mr Griffith added: “The UK market has been challenged by the economic downturn and demand has been a concern.

“Bermuda has managed to maintain its UK service and we continue to promote and market aggressively to maintain this share.

“Hotel partners have also stepped in with attractive deals like the current $500 credit on all stays of seven nights or more.”

The Bermuda Sun contacted all three airlines; American Airlines, Continental (now United Airlines) and Jetblue that service Bermuda from New York and New Jersey for comments on this story.

A statement from Jetblue said: “We’ve adjusted capacity to match demand; we can’t comment further on route specific capacity changes.”