Kim Swan: ‘Government Took Eye Off The Ball’

October 9, 2012

[Updated] The tourism decline didn’t happen overnight, the Government took “its eye off the ball” and neglected the importance of gateway cities and the disparity in spending between cruise ship and air passengers, UBP MP Kim Swan said.

Mr Swan was speaking after the recent release of the 2012 second quarter statistics which showed that air arrivals fell by 6.6%, tourist accommodations bookings dropped 6.6%, visitor spending fell 21.7%, while cruise ship arrivals increased by 0.2%.

Chart extracted from the full report [PDF]:

Mr Swan said: “The decline in airline arrivals for the second quarter is very disappointing but not unexpected as it is a result of a shift in policy several years ago which made Bermuda less competitive in our key gateway cities.

“The proper running of an industry key to our economic well being, such as tourism, requires consistent sound policy making which ensures business and job opportunities in the private sector are sustained and that our citizens interest are best protected. Bermuda has suffered from political maneuvering and announcements that appealed to Bermudians but have not delivered the real goods in tourism.

“One example is that we (UBP) have for a long time warned against the over reliance the PLP government have placed on cruise ships and the impact of taking our collective focus off of air passengers driven from gateway cities and its impact on our economy. These latest statistics clearly reflect that the knock on affect of declining air arrivals is being felt more seriously in other areas of the Bermuda economy.

“Comparatively, the second quarter statistics revealing that Bermuda loss nearly 5,000 visitors is a significant number – especially when an air visitor spends seven times more than a cruise visitor.

“The decline of leisure visitor by 13% and business visitor by 12% are equally as worrying as they both equate to fewer heads in beds and a decrease in spending that impacts on several island services.

“The truth of the matter is that PLP policies took Bermuda’s collective eye off of air arrivals destined for Bermuda properties has come back to haunt Bermuda in a huge way,” continued Mr Swan.

“The most telling statistic in the second quarter results is the $26 million dollar contraction in visitor spending that occurs with this significant decline has greatly influenced hiring in Bermuda.

“An additional noticeable contributing factor on the declining air arrivals, is the reduce number of guest workers on work permit holders who have traditionally had family travel to Bermuda. Which is a difficult adjustment for an economy enduring dramatic declines in its workforce – both skilled and unskilled – is a major blow.

“The irony is that the $27 million contraction of air visitor spending – caused by a 6.6% decline for the quarter nearly equals the $34 million estimated spent by cruise passengers.

“The cause of this decline didn’t happen over night – with one of the root causes being because the PLP Government took its eye off the ball and neglected the importance of gateway cities and the significant disparity in spending between cruise ship passengers and air bound visitors destined for hotels, guest houses and private homes has on various aspect of Bermuda’s economy.

“The second quarter air arrivals are disappointing and I am sure a bitter pill for our hard working Tourism Minister Hon. Wayne Furbert. But truth be told, our current Minister’s enthusiasm is no greater than that of former Tourism Ministers especially his newly found colleagues the late Hon. David Allen or Dr. Hon Ewart Brown. But like them he is getting disheartening results inspite of their best efforts.

“Why is it that all of the PLP Tourism Minister can have similar results – inspite of their best efforts and bold predictions – but still after 14 years with progressive declines the PLP still feel that politicians can turn our fortunes around in the tourism industry.

“What has been the timeline of the PLP mindset on tourism:

  • In 1998 the late David Allen promised Bermuda a 100 hundred day rescue mission and to reinvent tourism;
  • In 2003 Hon. Renee Webb supported a Tourism Authority;
  • Tourism and Transport Minister Dr. Ewart Brown convinced Bermuda to “Wake Up” and that we were in the “Platinum Period”;
  • Presently Minister Hon. Wayne Furbert legislative semantics fails tourism by claiming that “giving more authority to the board is the same as establishing an autonomous tourism board.

Mr Swan continued: “The day has come for government to place Tourism firmly in the hands of industry stakeholders and we in the United Bermuda Party have long believed that the best way forward to achieve this objective is by establishing an independent Tourism Authority thereby reducing governments involvement to that of support, legislative oversight by empowering the private sector to repair and rebuild an industry that has steadily declined in its financial contribution under political leadership.

“Unfortunately, on the eve of a general election and fourteen years since the United Bermuda Party first brought this (tourism authority)initiative forward – the PLP government are no closer to accepting the fact that political decision making continues to hurt tourism.

“What is frustrating is that the government and its Ministers – save and except for Hon. Renee Webb – have ignored the advice of reports urging it (government) to adapt a Tourism Authority for Bermuda,” continued Mr Swan.

“The Bermuda First report released in 2009 and more recently the PLP governments own Tourism Board recommended that the government introduce a Tourism Authority. To date, those recommendation have not been followed in the spirit in which they were given and Bermuda’s tourism industry is the worst for it.

“Here we are in 2012, not with a reinvented Bermuda tourism by the PLP but with the PLP now relying on a former chief critic to introduce several initiatives that the United Bermuda Party have been advocating.

“We acknowledged that we were pleased to notice last year that government had refocused on gateway cities ‘Fishing where the Fish bite best’ as we in the United Bermuda Party have long advocated. Unfortunately, government is playing catch for its neglect in past years.

“Truth is, Bermuda Tourism does need ‘so much more’ and respectfully it is painfully self evident that it requires politicians and politics to, get out of the way the rejuvenation of an industry, empowering the private sector would be a huge step to enlist the mindset best equipped to rejuvenate a fledgling industry,” concluded Mr Swan.

Update 9.01am: A PLP spokesperson said: “”While it is clear that more work needs to be done, the news isn’t all bad. Employment at our hotels is up – which means more jobs for Bermudians and cruise ship arrivals were up slightly.

“We are also encouraged by the recent investment by the Green Family in the Hamilton Princess. They would not have made the purchase and the investment if they did not believe in the vision outlined in our National Tourism Plan.

“It is clear that more work needs to be done. The PLP has offered real ideas for improving tourism including a new marketing strategy, new concessions to help hoteliers and more.

“On the other hand, Kim Swan has offered only a revisionist history lesson. He, like the OBA, have offered no ideas and no solutions for tourism and have no vision for moving the industry forward except for re-naming the Tourism Board.”

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  1. annette says:

    What is really amazing is no one wants to admit that Bermuda has practically priced itself put of the market with its high price for hotel beds and that is the truth. Also with the economy in the US and Europe is such a precarious tourist are not traveling like they used to. I don’t care what you put in place to lure tourist to our island,it is absolutely crazy to think that person would travel at a time when jobs are in limbo, and money is no guaranteed and mortgages are unstable get cruisers because cruising is all inclusive,and why should these people look for bargain travel like we do when we travel abroad.

    • Drink up! says:

      BULLS EYE. Na the OBA think you drink to much kool aid. Change your drink and vote for them they have a magic formula you know.

    • Vote for Truth says:

      Swan stick to the wicket! You have shown to be a honourable man. One that do not take bribes or expect front street to support you that’s must be why they all left you like they did Sir John – only Sir John has big bucks and they needed him to sway back the black votes so he’s now re-invited back to tea.

    • Mad Dawg says:

      How do you propose we reduce costs? Will people work for free? No. Brother Furbert will see to it that we can’t reduce labour costs.

  2. IQ says:

    Mr Swan is correct when he states” Bermuda has suffered from political maneuvering and announcements that appealed to Bermudians but have not delivered the real goods in tourism.” I hope he includes himself in this observation. The truth is that the cost of a Bermuda vacation rose significantly during the period that we were doing extremely well and we priced ourselves out of the market. We then had no choice but to embrace those tourist that came by boat because 1/2 a loaf is better than none.

  3. Justin says:

    This is a masterpeice, Mr. Swan. I really enjoy your realism and I appreciate the way you speak without sugar coating anything. This is what the Bermudian public needs to hear – the truth unfiltered. Keep it up!

    My fav part: “Truth is, Bermuda Tourism does need ‘so much more’…”

    • Rastaman says:

      Big up Mr. Swan, Honest and True to thyself and 4 we self 2! Kick backside but main ting him offer SOLUTIONS! Man of the soil, Man of Jah Jah!

  4. Joey-Bag-O'doughnuts says:

    Cruise ships are HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS. Why does Bermuda like all these cruise ships so much? The people that travel by ship for two days on the water with practically nothing to do, get to Bermuda they get a moped get a snack or small meal for lunch and go back to the ship for the main course. Lessen the number of cruise ships entice customers with better hotel rates and restaurant offerings and tourism will be back. Bermuda is barely two hours from the U.S east coast but something does need to be done with the costs.

  5. More Confused says:

    The decline can indeed be placed at the feet of the neglect of the traditional markets. Recall that from 2006 the emphasis ws on the Far Esat, South America and in fact anywhere but the East Coast. This was portrayed as the Platinum Period by the then Premier and Tourism Minister. Platinum maybe, but not for Bermuda.
    Bermuda is also competing with the Caribbean off season when they offer low rates and deals. Then add in the incredible choices of long distance travel, and Bermuda has to offer something different. Instead it is trying to copy other destinations. Why? Why can’t Bermuda be Bermuda?
    There is some comfort that at least the Greens are aware of their market, and no doubt the benefits will soon be seen. This will be despite the efforts of the Minister and BDOT getting in the way.

  6. Unique Ability says:

    Bermuda is an excellent product. Undervalued because of corruption and reliance on “Black Authenticity Construct”

    Only the PLP has the ability to continue on this path of destruction – the OBA simply does not have the ability.

    Why do so many ‘smart’ Bermudians endorse a controlling 70’s anti-success mindset?

    It would have seemed impossible to bring Bermuda’s Tourism to the state it is in today, and it is almost impossible to achieve continued decline with such a superior product. Never-the-less, our future is our destiny and we will live with our brother’s motivations.

  7. CHEEKUMS BI says:

    “The day has come for government to place Tourism firmly in the hands of industry stakeholders and we in the United Bermuda Party have long believed that the best way forward to achieve this objective is by establishing an independent Tourism Authority thereby reducing governments involvement to that of support, legislative oversight by empowering the private sector to repair and rebuild an industry that has steadily declined in its financial contribution under political leadership.
    Take Tourism and place it in the hands of industry stakeholders??? Establishing an independent Tourism Authority and reducing governments involvement to only support and legislative oversight empowering the private sector to repair and rebuild the industry?????……..

    Kim stop the madness, Tourism is in the hands of Bermudians and industry stakeholders now, government does not own the hotels nor do they own the shops that tourist go to visit year in and year out, the only thing that Bermuda government can do is continue to plan on making Bermuda look appetizing to potential visitors, and that is it.

    Why not have a group of industry stakeholders that can offer support to the government by helping to make Bermuda look more inviting to potential tourist…example ..you own a hotel or a store why not advertize that overseas to get people to come here..why not come together and build things here that tourist would enjoy (and no I’m not talking about gaming machines). You can’t put the blame solely on Government for the decline of tourism the private sector shares a huge blame as well… And how can you so boldly be for the establishment of an independent Tourism Authority but you hide behind a rock and say no to independence for Bermuda yet you want independence from the present government as if you don’t already have your freedom to have an independent business that can help to bring more tourist to the island?

    The world is in a economic depression many people don’t have the luxuries of having a vacation let alone enough money to come to an island where milk is almost 6 dollars……, Bermuda is catered to the wealthy sector of society. If we want more tourists we need to appeal more to all classes of people and not just the upper class. A lot of people would love to come to our beautiful island to escape the stress of their own economy but in reality they cannot afford to come here.

    Cruise ships lines understand and get this simple understanding so why can’t we..cruise ships appeal to all classes of people and that is why they bring more people to the island, but you can’t charge those same people that get off the boat $20 for a bottle of pink sand..come on.You cant expect to charge them a whole lot of money for food in a restaurant because they will just say, “ill wait till I get back on the ship to eat”
    More people take a cruise because it’s less expensive and it is easier for them to visit different places and have a place to rest their head which is all paid for with one price. Spending money on buying a plane ticket to one destination (Bermuda) and then having to shell out over 300 a night for a room, not to mention the high prices they would have to pay to eat at a restaurant, this would only guarantee us to have very few people coming in on planes per year, which leads to a decline in airline tourist. However cruise ship tourists come in multitudes and if you want that Dollar then drop some prices and we will make good money.
    But blaming Government for airline and tourists decline and calling for the establishment of an independent Tourism Authority is not the answer, the answer is to provide help to our government and to our island and to offer a different strategy in bringing all classes of people to the island, by using the cruise ship lines example I believe this is a good approach to adapt for the island businesses for more revenue.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      I’ll bet that you are on the Government payroll because you obviously do not have a clue about tourism & its overheads.

      Oh & BTW, yes I do. 18 years of every dollar earned a dollar brought in from overseas, not one sloshed around the local economy. If I had no work I did not get paid. Also, I was always the last one to be paid after all the other creditors.

      • CHEEKUMS BI says:

        government payroll, toursim and its overheads????? Your whole post is out of wack, i think you read and responded to the wrong poster

      • Terry says:

        Don’t worry about Triangle Drifter he’s only mad because he jumped from UBP to OBA in 10 hours. Was that called flip flop or long jump?

  8. meow! says:

    Sighhhhhhh……Everyone obviously got distracted from tourism,and now we all feel the effects…Bermuda should first get the infrustructure up to par, even with cruise ships, we have a lack of reliable transport…then there is a lack of places to go,as even some resturants close at 3pm and then reopen at dinner time..We also need Bermudians to understand this is the only arena that we are able to control and is our bread and butter outside of IB,..more Bermudians have to understand the importance of the US$…And making lifelong connections to stimulate continuos repeat visitors..We need something eye popping!!!We also need consistency in what we offer…Now all we need is a Leader!

  9. Triangle Drifter says:

    I took part in the Competitiveness Comission in the early 90s & the Monitor Report a few years later. Many people put hundreds of hours, for no financial reimbursement, into both of these investigations of Bermudas tourism decline. Both reports went on a backroom Government shelf somewhere to gather dust.

    Apparently the UBP did not like the harsh truth of the day back then. 20 years later, nothing has changed. The PLP ignored the efforts of so many & has gone off on a 14 year travel spree to places we will never get a visitor from.

    First of all the product quality & value for money has sunk to an alltime low.

    Add to that the ignoring of the demographic & areas where those who can afford a Bermuda vacation live.

    Over & over I have stressed the importance of fishing where fish are & doing it in places where they can easily get to Bermuda from & get home again. They are looking for “A short trip to a perfect holiday” to quote an old Bermuda tagline.

    Promote in places that have direct air service or, at the most, a one stop connection, same airline, same day. This basically limits to east of the Mississippi.

    It does not include China, Argentina, South Aftrica, the Far East or most of Europe.

  10. Hmmmmm says:

    So much nonsense spoken on tourism that there is rarely room for the truth. The fact that Kim Swan gets so much coverage is part of why Bermuda is in the toilet. Every idiot and his brother gets the microphone around here and so we have to play along and humor him. Firstly, a few things that are facts:

    1. Bermuda never stopped fishing where the fish are. All of the North American and Canadian efforts have continued under the PLP; its just that the media chose to cover attempts at diversifying our tourist base like the effort had somehow shifted. That simply isn’t true and an examination of the Department of Tourism’s budget will show that.
    2. cruise ships and cruise ship arrivals have been increased precisely because air arrivals have been trending down. I think the old timers say “half a loaf is better than no loaf at all”.
    3. cruise passengers do spend money too, just not where some of you might want them to. Ask any Dockyard merchant how this season has been and they will tell you it’s been great.
    4. air visitors are put off by the high cost of hotel rooms which do not match that price with room quality. 2 and 3 star rooms dressed up in 4 and 5 star prices. As Bill Clinton said about his recent stay at Cambridge Beaches ” I think the room was little older than I am…”
    5. all this talk about a Tourism Authority is ridiculous. Which of the entrenched and vested local interests in this country can or would come together for the common good of the industry? The whole thing needs to bottom out leaving them with no choice but to do the right thing. Until then hoteliers are not even united about which association to join but yet through Kim they preach of a tourism authority without politics.
    6. The argument about a lessening focus on air visitors is manifestly false. Remember how much effort was put into attracting low cost carriers to blunt the power of American, Delta and BA? That’s not a Government uninterested in air visitors.
    7. The Government did its part by bringing air fares down and introducing competition to the market. Jet Blue from NYC, Air Tran from Atlanta, Zoom from the UK, West jet from Canada, USA3000 from Baltimore,Delta from LaGuardia, US Air from DC, Charlotte, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, United from Chicago. Air visitors had all the options but the flights couldn’t be sustained because of the prohibitve cost of hotels and the lack of upgraded product and development of tourist activities. Was that the Government’s job too ?!
    8. Bermudians seem to think that we can promote our tourism like Jamaica and the Bahamas do on tv and in print. Well folks, that cost money; real money and nothing close to what is allocated to tourism year after year.
    9. Just so we’re clear, tourists don’t care about the internal politics of their vacation destination. Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, Cuba are doing just fine because they’re affordable and where expensive provide an experience and product that matches what they’re asking people to spend.

    Having a debate about tourism is fine, but you have to tell the whole story and not repeat what was the media focus. Facts are facts and repeating nonsense doesn’t make it fact.

  11. swing voter says:

    until Days Inn prices are offered for rooms deserving of such, kiss tourism goodbye…..Both Fairmonts have rooms with shyte views that should be sold for $150/night…..places like Grotto Bay should cut their operation costs, lower their room rates to $100/night and make up the difference in service charges i.e. meal plan, drinks, activities and aminities, similar to cruise ship add-ons

  12. Winnie Dread says:

    @Hmmmmm great points, however I do think we need a Tourism Authority or whatever name one wants to call it, I think with the direct running out of the hands of elected officals we may, yes may as nothing is guranteed see improvement. As for the cruise ships we have no choice, however GOB likes to take credit for the increased numbers….. As the years have gone by, the ships are getting bigger and bigger so as a consequence the numbers must increase….. In the 90s we had for eg Song of America 1800 pax, Horizon 1800 pax,Royal Majesty 1300 pax, plus two others calling weekly….. Now most of the vessels availabe to us have 3500 plus capacity dbl occupancy, if you add all berths filled 1 ship would cover all 5 per week in the 90s….. The biggest thing is with the ships nowadays is with deeply discounted rates the spending power of the ppl onboard has depreciated, any burger flipper in the US can afford to GET ONBOARD. So while we have these large numbers of ppl coming via the ships we are not meeting expeceted revenues….. Our on the ground tourism product has to improve in order for us to justify our pricyness,lol is that a word.

  13. Opressed says:

    Here is a fact: Bermuda has not had a Tourism Minister since The Hon. CV,( Jim) Woolridge.

    Mr Woolridge knew and understood tourism and all it’s facets. It’s time to turn over the reigns to Mr Woolridge, he is our only hope if we plan to revive the now defunct tourism product.

    • Terry says:

      @ Opressed

      You’re talking about the same Jim Woolridge that wrote in his book something about white boys letting black boys be in the UBP party as long as they can tell black boys what to do? Bernews or Lavern what was the correct text he used in his book?

      • JAWS says:

        As Jim Woolrridge said “those little white boys don’t mind you being in charge as long as they can tell you what to do – “The House That Jack … C.V. (Jim) Woolridge.

        • Opressed says:

          Yes, the same person, like him or not, he knows the tourism product inside and out. He warned of every mistake these people have made in the ensuing years.

  14. Hey bie! says:

    How do you like de New Bermuder? Flip!I must register to vote in my constituency! I’ve voted PLP in the past….But OBA what are your solutions? I gotta give it to the Swans, they are utterly relentless

  15. welldone says:

    @Hmmmm…GREAT POST!

  16. Garry Marshall says:

    Yeah but they haven’t taken their off their lavish trips every week :(