WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9: BEST’s Blueprint on sustainable development aims to outline what it means to be a sustainable community and what it will take to get there.

Over the coming weeks the Bermuda Sun will continue publishing the text of the Blueprint, section by section.

We congratulate the new Government, and the new Tourism Minister and look forward to working with them.

There are a number of high profile tourism related issues to resolve: SDOs, Tourism Board, Morgan’s Point, Park Hyatt, Southlands Park, cruise ship access, etc.

A holistic, collaborative approach is required with the three pillars of our Blueprint — social, economic and environment — all being vital components needed to develop a vibrant, sustainable tourism industry of which we can all be proud.

Bermuda’s cost of living is several times that of most rival tourist destinations; average hotel rates exceed most, if not all, world cities.

Consequently, Bermuda simply cannot mirror other destinations while remaining competitive.  Bermuda’s success as a tourist destination has traditionally stemmed from its breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.

Online destination reviews affirm that these continue to be the key elements of positive tourist experiences. 

On the review website epinions.com, for example, Bermuda’s pros include “lush greenery”, “beautiful beaches”, “beautiful architecture”, “white roofs”, “pink sand”, “nature”, “picturesque”, “history”, “charming country”, “clear water”, “many cultural and natural sites to see”, “abundance of activities”, “serenity”, “relaxing environment”, “friendly locals”, “beauty”, “culture” and “fun”. 

Of the 64 reviews written between 1999 and 2010, only one listed “boring” as a con and one reviewer even found Bermuda to be “too cosmopolitan”.

Such visitor feedback offers valuable insight into how best to market and improve our tourism product.

Many of the experiences that we as Bermudians seek when we travel to cities overseas are often the very things that visitors to our shores are looking to escape.

If we try to cater to the one tourist who finds Bermuda “boring”, we may risk losing the 63 others who visit for our natural beauty and charm.  Aggressive and noisy road users, violence and crime, and deliberate racial discord must be reined in.

Competitive advantage

It will help if we are mindful that, in addition to eroding the natural beauty that draws so many people to our shores, development, if left unchecked, will ultimately destroy the primary competitive advantage that we have always enjoyed.

To differentiate ourselves from other, more affordable, destinations, our specific advantages should therefore be recognised, preserved, and developed into a unique tourism product integrated into a comprehensive tourism plan.

Cultural tourism is now part of a worldwide boom that is projected to become the world’s largest industry.

Thus the development and promotion of a cultural component of Bermuda’s tourism package would be unquestionably beneficial.  According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), sustainable tourism is defined as “the optimal use of natural, cultural, social and financial resources for national development, on an equitable and self-sustaining basis, to provide a unique visitor experience and an improved quality of life through partnerships among government, the private sector and communities.”

Embracing the concept of sustainable tourism will therefore bring with it the opportunity to enhance the quality of life for Bermudians as well as the quality of the tourist experience as a whole. 

BEST strongly encourages tourism planning that looks beyond copycat schemes to the deep recognition of Bermuda’s unique potential and its limitations.

BEST supports tourism planning that embraces the concept of sustainability, and recognises that a unique tourist experience is critical to the success of the tourism industry.

• This document was researched and written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell.