[Updated] The early release of October air arrival figure last week by the Tourism Minister was nothing more than “an attempt to use half-baked results for political gain,” Shadow Minister for Tourism Shawn Crockwell said.
Earlier this week Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert said that of October 25, 2012 show that 17,472 passengers visited the island, up 5.3%.
A statement from the Tourism Ministry said that Minister Furbert believes that “we are seeing an increase because the Government National Tourism Plan is working and that the new ‘So Much More’ brand push was paying dividends.”
“The Minister however believes that when the remaining figures come in for October, they will show that the recent Hurricane Sandy will have had a negative impact on the final October numbers,” the Ministry said.
Mr Crockwell said: “The early release of October air arrival figure last week by the Tourism Minister is an example of everything that is wrong with the Government’s management of the tourism industry. The release was nothing more than an attempt to use half-baked results for political gain.
“The numbers themselves are meaningless for the tourism industry, which determines how it is performing on the basis of monthly, quarterly and annual results – not three-week, out-of-the-blue ‘preliminary’ results to put a gloss of progress on Government work.
“Questions have to asked:
- Why would the Tourism Minister for the first time release a three-week preliminary report on October, when the practice is to release monthly reports?
- Why release the October 1-25 results with the reservation that the 5.3% gain in air arrivals might not hold over the last six days of the month because of Hurricane Sandy?
Mr Crockwell continued: “The Minister says he believes the 5.3% gain is proof that his new “So Much More” marketing campaign is “paying dividends”. But where is the proof that bookings are due to the just-launched campaign?
“If the Minister is so intent on revealing how good things are, where are hotel occupancy-revenue figures? We understand that hotels are heavily discounting their room rates to drum up business – some as much as 50% according to a survey on Expedia. At 50% off, hotels would need to double their occupancy to approach their bottom line targets.
“Political leadership of a business-driven enterprise such as tourism is the wrong track for the industry and Bermuda, and the Minister’s manipulation of arrivals figures shows just how easily politics can take over and drive the system.
“The Minister’s release is an example of the Government putting its political needs ahead of the country’s needs, which in this case is best served by an honest, professional-based assessment of the industry’s performance, not a politically driven manipulation of statistics.
“The time is long past due for the creation of a Tourism Authority that puts professionals not politicians in charge of the industry. The OBA will make that happen,” concluded Mr Crockwell.
Update 6.18pm: A PLP statement issued in response said: “”The OBA is really grasping at straws now. Shawn Crockwell and the OBA want to take advantage of Hurricane Sandy – which caused the deaths of hundreds of people in addition to tourism cancellations – to make a political point. The OBA has sunk to a new low.
“Further, they also appear to be arguing that we should be less transparent and not get statistics out there in a timely fashion. We’re sorry that it doesn’t tell the doom and gloom story that they want you to believe about Bermuda. But, we believe that it’s important for Bermuda to know the truth – that progress is being made and that before the worst hurricane to hit the East Coast of the United States in decades, tourism was doing well.
“The fact of the matter is that the OBA has no ideas and no solutions related to tourism. The only thing we hear from them is to rename the “Tourism Board” the “Tourism Authority” and say that the Governor should select it’s members. That’s not a plan. That’s not a vision. That’s spin from a party desperate for power.”