Business

Tourist arrivals soar in first quarter of

Friday, August 11, 2017

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) — The Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) says visitor arrivals to this British Overseas Territory rose by 14 per cent in the first half of this year, continuing an upward trend.

The authority says that figures up until the end of June also show visitor spending up by 31 per cent over the corresponding period in 2016, with a 27 per cent increase in hotel revenue per available room.

In all, the first six months saw 254,340 visitors, including just under 80,000 air arrivals, come to the island.

Revealing the latest statistics on Thursday, BTA Chief Executive Officer Kevin Dallas said the second quarter of the year was the sixth-consecutive quarter of growth for the once struggling Bermuda tourism industry, with leisure air arrivals increasing by 15 per cent in the quarter.

“That … is really a phenomenal run for Bermuda; long may it continue that way. I don't think I can promise that every quarter will always be up, but the long-term trend is now becoming clear. We are definitely on a sustained rebound.”

He hailed the growth in visitor spending as a highlight, saying that between January 1 and June 30 this year US$175.1 million was spent by air visitors in Bermuda — an increase of US$39.9 million compared to the same period last year.

“While seeing more and more visitors arriving at the airport is a nice sign of the rebound, what's really valuable to Bermuda is what those visitors are spending here on the island in local businesses and in our hotels, on various excursions and experiences that Bermudian entrepreneurs are offering,” he said.

“This is the money that is going directly into Bermuda's economy.”

Dallas said the majority of the growth came in the form of younger, experiential visitors, with 78 per cent of the increase attributed to increasing number of visitors under the age of 45.

Hotels saw a 13 per cent increase in hotel occupancy in the first half of the year with a 27 per cent increase in revenue per available room.

Meanwhile, the vacation rental market also saw growth between January and June, with 10 per cent of visitors choosing to stay in vacation rentals — a 47.1 per cent increase from last year — and those visitors stayed in Bermuda two days longer than they had during the same period in 2016.

While the island saw a 10 per cent increase in visitors from the United States, arrivals from Canada, Britain, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia also increased.

Arrivals from the “other” category saw an 83 per cent surge, fuelled largely by more than 1,000 visitors travelling from New Zealand to watch sailing's prestigious America's Cup. The Kiwi fans were rewarded as the Emirates Team New Zealand boat dethroned defending champions Oracle Team USA in the final.

But there was a sad note as well, as Mary Elizabeth McKee, 62, from New Zealand, who had come to watch the cup, died when she was thrown overboard in a boating accident in Hamilton Harbour. Her 69-year-old husband was seriously injured in the crash.

As for the America's Cup, leisure air arrivals were up nine per cent during the event, while the number of air arrivals visiting friends and relatives in Bermuda shot up 54 per cent.

An estimated 19,103 of the air arrivals during the event were first-time visitors — an increase of 17 per cent compared to the same period last year.

A report quantifying what the “America's Cup effect” was overall is expected later this year. The then One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) Government spent more than US$70 million on the America's Cup and banked on a feel-good factor from the event carrying into last month's general election.

But many residents saw it as a “rich white man's” event and the Opposition Progressive Labour Party swept to power, winning two-thirds of the seats in the House of Assembly.

Looking forward, Dallas said the second half of the year is looking strong, with the BTA expecting to finish the year with percentage increases “in the double-digits”.

The BTA took over the running of the industry from the Ministry of Tourism four years ago, a year after the OBA came to power. The OBA said it was time to remove politicians from the industry and let industry experts provide the driving force.

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