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December 13, 2018

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Royal Gazette Articles of August 27 & 28, 2001

Tourism season headed down

By Stephen Breen

Hoteliers yesterday revised their predictions for the current tourist season and now believe it will be the worst in decades after the latest official figures showed visitor arrivals are down on last year.

Department of Tourism figures released yesterday show that visitor numbers for the year to June are down 15 percent on 2000 at 207,673. Arrival numbers for June were down 16 percent on the same period last year at 62,564.

Bermuda Hotel Association President Billy Griffith said in April, when the first quarter figures were produced, that he predicted this year's arrival figures will not be worse than 2000, when they hit an all-time low.

But as yesterday's gloomy figures were released, Mr. Griffith said he now believed this summer season will be even worse than last year.

Mr. Griffith told The Royal Gazette the figures for July will also show a further decline on last year.

"It is a serious cause for concern, but I don't think we are terribly surprised at this point in time. There are going to be tough times ahead and we are not going to break any records," he said.

"When looking forward at the subsequent figures for June and July, we will not see a turnaround and will see the same erosion of business, and June for the year to date is down 15 percent.

"We are continuing working on several things to try to get as much business as we can. It is very definite and very apparent that what is happening in the United States with the slowdown in the economy, and also the United Kingdom, is affecting the business."

Air arrivals for the year to June are down 13 percent at 141,113, and with the loss of a sixth weekly cruise ship, cruise numbers are down 20 percent to 63,197.

The figures also show that, although there are fewer rooms available than last year due to hotels carrying out renovations, the percentage of the remaining rooms occupied is also down.

Occupancy levels for the year to June are 52.2 percent compared to 60.1 percent for the same time last year. Occupancy rates for June, at 79.6 percent, are also down from 86.9 percent last year.

Occupancy rates at small hotels are slightly up on the year to June at 70.3 percent, while cottage colonies are slightly down from 56 percent to 52.4 percent. But large hotels have been hit by a slump in group and convention
bookings, with occupancy for the year to June down from 60.3 percent last year to 49.5 percent now.

Mr. Griffith added: "Last summer there were less rooms but higher occupancy rates. Now, the hotel rooms available are down, but the occupancy levels are also down, which tells you the market is even softer. It is worrying."

Air arrivals from the United States have plummeted 13 percent from the year to June to 108,618; Canada is down four percent at 15,450; the United Kingdom is off 21 percent at 10,973; and Europe is down 29 percent at 2,128.

Tourism Minister David Allen was off the Island yesterday and could not be contacted for comment.

But the commentary to the statistics offered by the Department of Tourism for the June statistics said: ''Though the economic slowdown in the US economy continues to adversely affect the travel industry, its effect on Bermuda is compounded by a 19 percent decline in the number of beds available in the second quarter.

''As the Island's hotels continue to undergo major renovation initiatives, the total number of visitors residing in the commercial properties declined by nine percent for the month, while for the year, that figure fell by 14 percent.''

The statement said weak European currencies made Bermuda an expensive destination, while Europe became cheaper for US travellers.

Dodwell predicts tourism job cuts

By Tania Theriault

Government explanations for the dismal tourism statistics which were recently released don't hold water, Shadow Tourism Minister David Dodwell has claimed.

And he implored Premier Jennifer Smith to "get the Minister (David Allen) to stop travelling and come back and look at the product".

Mr. Dodwell branded the Tourism Minister the "Minister of Travel" and said it
was ridiculous that Mr. Allen was off the Island looking at one cruise ship with three other people from his department while tourism numbers continue to slide.

On Friday, the Tourism Ministry released statistics for the first six months
of 2001 and the news was bad across the board a ten percent drop in air arrivals, 20 percent drop in cruise arrivals and a 15 percent drop overall
against the first six months of last year.

"Not only will this be the worst year on record, it is the worst year based on six months gone by on record," Mr. Dodwell said.

He said he had gone through tourism statistics for the first six months of the year dating back to 1973 and with the exception of 1981 when a general strike crippled the industry "nothing matched this year's "massive decrease".

And, he said although the slowdown in the US economy was having an effect on Bermuda's tourism numbers, 2001 marks Bermuda's third year of decline "and during 1999 and 2000 the US economy was booming.

"This is the third successive year of decline under this Government," he said. "The first two were when the US economy was posting record numbers. So we can't be now using the US economy as an excuse."

In addition, Mr. Dodwell said Government claims that Bermuda is in the process of renovating its product "as several Island hotels take advantage of tax breaks under the Hotel Concessions Act to upgrade facilities "do not explain the decline.

He said that if one considers that fewer hotel beds are available as a result of renovations, one would expect occupancy rates to be higher as a result.

"But the occupancy stats to June and the occupancy projections for the rest of the year are pretty awful," said Mr. Dodwell. "And the result is going to be layoffs "layoffs in the summer months."

Mr. Dodwell also took aim at what he called the "abject failure" of the cruise and stay programme.

He pointed out that only 411 people had participated in the programme where visitors cruise to Bermuda and then fill out their vacation by staying in a Bermuda hotel for a couple of days.

"It was projected that there would be tens of thousands of people," said Mr. Dodwell. "The fly-cruise policy is a complete failure. We should abandon it and recognise that cruising and air arrivals are two different industries."

When Mr. Allen originally announced the cruise and stay packages in 1999 he suggested hotels would see and extra 26,000 bed nights each season or up to one thousand each week.

Mr. Dodwell also pointed out that the number of tourists who answer that they believe they received value for money while staying in Bermuda on exit surveys continued to decline.

He said last year that number fell to just 52 percent of visitors "that was
the lowest in history," he said.

The Tourism Ministry failed to release that statistic for the first half of this year.

Mr. Dodwell called on the Minister to come clean about the this year's numbers. "He's hiding that figure from the public," he said. "Our focus has to be on whether we're satisfying visitors."

This page was last updated on September 1,

Varied Hibiscus: Photo
by Judy Malley