1961: Pan American’s Bermuda Tourism Film

April 19, 2011

1Tourismad1960sFifty years ago Bermuda’s tourism industry was arguably at its zenith.

By 1961 Bermuda had rebounded from a sharp decline in visitor arrivals which briefly threatened the island’s longstanding dominance as the luxury resort of choice for wealthy North Americans.

The introduction of jet airliners in the late 1950s had allowed previously remote Caribbean destinations to start developing tourism infrastructures: Bermuda was facing formidable competition for the first time since the island launched its modern hospitality industry in the 1920s.

“But the Atlantic coral island is back to besting previous records for visitors,” reported the UPI news agency in June of that year. “And there’s enough confidence in the future to justify another new hotel, the 550-bed Carlton Beach (later the Sonesta and the Wyndham), which will be opened in July on the South Shore of Southampton Parish.

“True, by 1960 Bermuda’s tourist business (which represents 80 percent of the island’s income) was down. But instead of damning the Jet Age or the growing popularity of some Caribbean islands, Bermuda promptly did not one but several things about it.”

An additional $250,000 was earmarked for North American promotion and marketing by the Trade Development Board (forerunner to today’s Tourism Ministry) and everyone from hoteliers to taxi drivers were dragooned into service to bolster and burnish the island’s hospitality product.

So confident was Pan American World Airways in a revitalised Bermuda tourism industry, the air carrier – flying to the island since 1937 — released this 20 minute film to North American TV stations as part of its “Wings To …” series promoting its destinations.

“Business from November, 1960 through February, 1961 was up 8.5 percent over the same 1969-1960 period,” reported UPI. “Four of the big hotels then started a program to see that visitors were amply entertained during the evenings of the off-season months from November through February.

“The hotels had gala nights in rotation, with each sending its night club acts to appear at the others … The Trade Development Board and the government cooperated to turn a majority of taxi drivers into qualified tour guides, offering a training programme and licensing the drivers who passed the test.”

By the end of 1961 Bermuda was expecting to draw more than 150,000 long-stay and cruise ship visitors and the opening of the Carlton Beach resort would boost the island’s hotel beds to over 5000. It was anticipated visitors would contribute close to $40 million to the Bermuda economy.

“The Jet Age hasn’t hurt either,” reported UPI. “There are as many as six jet flights daily from Eastern US and Canadian cities.

“The jets put Bermuda only 80 minutes from New York. In fact, airplanes were what took Bermuda out of the category of being exclusively a playground for the rich.

“There are plenty of rooms at exclusive rates but it’s possible to get a room without breakfast for as low as $3 to $7 a day.”

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Comments (10)

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  1. CB says:

    Is that a teenage Brenda Warwick at 18.59? I sure think it is.

  2. Litmus Test says:

    Thank Goodness for the Talbot Brothers! I didn’t know they were the only black people in Bermuda when this was being filmed! lol I watched this clip twice and saw my first person of color at the 17 minute mark. Very strange for a highlight reel of a tropical paradise, no?

    • 5boro says:

      They may not understand what you’re saying, but I do. Watching this video reminded me of how much segregation existed in Bermuda’s history. Although there were people of color here and there, the first people of color showcased were the Talbot Brothers. Even if this was Pan Am travel promotional from the sixties, I doubt they wanted to highlight the darker natives. I know Pam Am had their own agenda, but this is still prevalent in present day promotions for Bermuda. Considering that most returning tourists rate the friendliness of Bermudians as number one, people of Bermuda (those of color and otherwise) should be represented.

  3. He says:

    Check your glasses. There is a person of colour in the very first minute. But congratulations anyway for bringing colour into it. Youmust be proud.

  4. Daedalus? says:

    First images of people in Bermuda @00:40.
    First images of people of colour @00:40 – guys leaning against the bridge.

    Nice try Litmus, I’d say your level of acidity is off the charts!

    Excellent article Bernews. More of the same please! Reminds many of us of how successful Bermuda once was as tourist destination.

  5. AnnMarieP says:

    Gee sounds like the government of the time had a great plan for tourism and promoting the island. Look at what can be accomplished by working together.

  6. Don't care what anyone says:

    There is such a thing as a demographic. Having white tourists in it was a natural thing to do since almost all of our tourists at the time were white. It simply did not make financial sense to try to appeal to a demographic who typically didn’t travel here. PLP did this of course but it really had validity other than to make them feel like they were in charge – and stick it to Whitey. A total waste of money in fact.

  7. Uncle Ruckus says:

    Ha very bright indeed. I need some grey poupon while watching this.

  8. Weldon Wade says:

    Great underwater video of helmet diving and swimmers playing with fish at 7:24. :)

  9. Razor Ramon says:

    THIS is the Bermuda I wish I could work in. Clean, crime free, affordable and with friendly folks.