[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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