Opinion Column: “Chasing Young Travel Money”

June 10, 2015

[Opinion column written by Glenn Jones]

I attended my 20-year prep school reunion last week. Something interesting happened.

In the inevitable conversations about family and career, a handful of my former classmates leaned forward to hear me talk about my work at the Bermuda Tourism Authority [BTA]. These old pals had visited here before, but hadn’t in a while. They wanted to know what’s new, what’s different. I think they were searching for a reason to come back. Fortunately, the past few months left me with a lot to say.

I told them Outside magazine crowned Bermuda Best Island for adventure travel this year. Non-verbal responses couldn’t hide their surprise. I reassured them it was no mistake.

I told them about fly-boarding, paddleboards and a high ropes course on Paget Island not for the faint of heart. Then I showed them the cool story recently posted about all three on the Ask Men website.

YoungTravelMoney1

I mentioned the refurbished Railway Trail in Hamilton Parish – spectacular for mountain biking, jogging and walking. I testified about running and walking trails I’ve tried the world over, but “the best I’ve ever seen is just a stone’s throw from my bedroom window”.

You should have seen their eyes get wide when I mentioned cliff jumping. That was the best reaction. I whipped out my iPhone and showed a quick video – six from the BTA team cliff jumping at Admiralty House Park in March. “That’s our CEO,” I pointed out as they watched Bill Hanbury’s age-defying leap.

They were impressed. Not only with Bill’s courage, but with this reimagined place. It turns out in all their visits to our island, adventurous hadn’t occurred to them as the right adjective. Their minds were changed. Seeing is believing.

My Massachusetts prep school story is a microcosm of a BTA mission. To grow the next generation of Bermuda travellers, unique, adrenaline-inducing, Instagram-worthy experiences are a must have. Travellers under 40 – particularly millennials – demand it.

YoungTravelMoney2

People of this age, of which I am one, live online and on social media, and according to what’s out there right now, Bermuda is making a strong case for the vacation they covet. Bermuda is the cover story in Triathlete Magazine. Yahoo Travel is giddy about eight adventures it tried on-island. Men’s Journal suggests cliff jumping in Spanish Point is a lure for travellers even greater than our pink sand beaches on the south shore. How’s that for a new way of thinking! And just wait until adventure photographer Jimmy Chin’s Bermuda assignment goes live in Conde Nast, sure to electrify his 663,000 Red Bull-chugging followers on Instagram.

These magazine accolades, travel writer endorsements and social media prophets are not accidental. They’re part of a BTA strategy which includes pitching to the right publications, hosting the right influencers and investing in the kind of new experiences youthful, upwardly mobile travellers tell us they want. Think hydro-bikes and Tobacco Bay bonfires – both off the ground recently, both partially funded by the BTA.

Of course, we’re not done yet. Not by a long shot. This crowd will expect us to inject better food, beverage and nightlife on public beaches. They’ll want the option to stay in vacation rentals with their friends, expecting quality standards will be met. They want WiFi, they want convenient transportation late into the night and they’ll want to visit local havens like Art Mel’s with the same lust typically reserved for hallmarks like Swizzle Inn. This is the future.

The BTA is reaching for that future, successfully. Judge not by its words, but by the volume of media coverage generated and the small businesses created to chase young travel money. Judge also by the reactions from well-travelled 30-somethings in my Massachusetts microcosm. Minds were opened and a vacation destination they thought they knew was reimagined. All of that before I got to the part about a little boat race called America’s Cup.

- Glenn Jones is the director of public and stakeholder relations at the Bermuda Tourism Authority and part of the Williston-Northampton School class of 1995. He posts regularly about the international media coverage of Bermuda Tourism on the BTA corporate Facebook page.

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Comments (27)

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  1. Rick says:

    Numbers don’t lie .

    • Trulytruly says:

      Well that’s like planting vegetable seeds and expecting instant vegetables. The BTA have been in existence for just over a year. They have been and continue to plant seeds. The fruit will follow. To hear Zane and others condemning the BTA as a failure is sad. Our tourism decline will not be fixed in a year, but at least we aren’t doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The BTA are trying a new approach, free from the straight jacket of the former department.

      • Mockingjay says:

        It was Hanbury who said we would see results in 6 months, for $1000,00 a day I would say the same S!@# too.
        LMFAO

  2. Trulytruly says:

    Great piece. Mind shifting. Fast Forward Glenn.

    • Mockingjay says:

      So um, we don’t attract African Americans ?

      • Yahoo says:

        Who cares what color they are (except you) as long as they bring the green?

      • Not exactly says:

        Where in his article does Glenn even insinuate targeting our marketing by race? God, you are so f@**&&^ small minded.

      • logic says:

        Please elaborate @Mockingjay… pretty sure African Americans are “People of this age…” too. So by targeting the millennials, we are in fact targeting ALL people.

        Racist @$$

      • So bored with you. says:

        African Americans don’t cliff jump exercise, and enjoy the out doors? You’ve outdone yourself again Mocking-boring

  3. Terry says:

    Good on you Glen.
    There is hope and thanks for giving us some.
    Shalom.

  4. Accurate says:

    This all we can hope for Glen – Thanks for dropping our hooks where the fish live.
    Now it’s up to the rest of us – hospitality workers and everyone else – make this work or sink for sure.

    • Mockingjay says:

      Still cant beat the islands to the South of us with food and bar availability on the beaches, late night (red light district ) FUN and extra curriculum activity without conservative, judgmental opinions.
      Not to mention a $1,000.00 fine for a lil joint.
      BORING

      • Christopher Infamous says:

        If you can’t beat’em I’d suggest you leave and go to one of those islands down south – using a one way ticket.

        We would celebrate – no more Mockingbore!

  5. Jess says:

    Fantastic article, Glenn. Love your thinking. Keep it up.

  6. somuchless says:

    Glenn acting like he cares lol

  7. Stephen Thomson says:

    Bermuda has much to be proud of. Glenn, you are upbeat, positive and 100% right. We all need to get behind you and the BTA and “talk up” our magnificent island. Thank you for reminding us.
    Hope you said hi to Anne Pickrell at Williston. She loves our island…..

    • Mockingjay says:

      Typical U.B.P/oba hyped up encouragement wishes, with the numbers down because the islands to the South of us are cheaper and much, much more to offer, seems like the $23 Million that the tax payers gave? to the B.T.A is fitting for a $1,000.00 a day pay to de C.E.O, I guess thats where de Furlough was supposed to support.

  8. MB says:

    Sorry Glyn- hydrobikes are so, well, 1995, and bonfires on Tobacco Bay, really? It’s a ghost town at night thanks to the PLP’s Club Med fiasco and the BLDC’s sheer incompetency, and yet this bunch of idiots just keep getting away with doing, well, NOTHING, year after year.

    All the stuff the millenial travelers really want we still don’t have because we are a homophobic, stifled by protectionism, the church and red tape, and led by dumb politicians.

    You can show all the cliff jumping in the world but if we dont offer casinos, parties and bars open to public ON our South Shore beaches, more food choices-more vendors selling local food at beaches and town, less US-style crap in Dockyard, less Italian crap everywhere you look, more of Bermuda…we are doomed. Stop protecting the big players and established business and open up Bermuda to Bermudian entrepreneurs.

    • Christopher Notorius says:

      MB you are correct. We also don’t provide efficiant transportataion for tourists to get around. Buses don’t show, taxis show even less, scooters are death traps and we still don’t rent cars – not even tiny ones. Bermuda is indeed stuck in another century – and its not even the last one.

  9. Lois Frederick says:

    I suppose there will always be those that strangely don’t want the BTA to succeed. I personally went up to the CEO and offered my full support for what the BTA is doing. Yes, he was over optimistic to think things could turn in the right direction in 6 months. He has admitted that. He now has a more realistic outlook. He has said they will own 2015. Realistically we all know that a 30 year decline isn’t going to change suddenly to record numbers. The combined fresh approach of the BTA, AC35 with its accompanying international media exposure, together with the associated numerous major hotel developments, will all assist in the turnaround as we go forward. My glass is half full. What about you?

  10. frank says:

    Bta have given us the results we need fire them all starting with that be ceo

  11. Eve says:

    The BTA is buying magazine space, free trips for travel writers/bloggers & photographers, funding local ventures along with other schemes including pitch and spin from Glenn and Bill. Most of what BTA is doing is months late to get attention of tourists planning a trip. Cliff jumping is not going to bring in those with enough money to add the the local economy.

    Notice Glenn didn’t say how many classmates had been or are coming to Bermuda.

    The measure of BTA’s success will be in the number of warm bodies paying for a bed and spending money on the Island. So far the numbers are terrible.

  12. Xaxa says:

    Go Glenn!!!
    Put a sock in it, Mockingjay!

  13. Chris Famous says:

    Nicely put together piece.Hopefully the pieces will start falling in place.

    Respice Finem