Significant declines across the board in the wake of COVID-19,  resulted in a “prolonged and decimating” effect on Bermuda’s tourism industry.

According to the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s (BTA) end-of-year report, recovery from the impact of this global pandemic will be “slow and gradual”.

“Bermuda end-of-year tourism industry metrics highlight the impact of the 2020 pandemic with predictably deep losses and only occasional silver linings,” the report said.

“For three-quarters of 2020, the global travel industry was completely upended. Bermuda was not spared from jarring disruption, including a decisive Government of Bermuda move to protect its community from a rapidly worsening pandemic by closing to scheduled commercial flights, March 21 to June 30, 2020.

With no cruise ships last season, the number of passengers was down 98.3 percent when compared to 2019.

Topline 2020 performance statistics show the hard truth of a devastated economic pillar:

•Total leisure visitors spending down 88.7 percent compared to 2019

•Total air visitors down 84.4 percent compared to 2019

•Leisure air visitors down 86.6 percent compared to 2019

•Cruise visitors down 98.3 percent compared to 2019

•Airline seats flying to Bermuda down 70.6 percent compared to 2019

“The crisis that beset our tourism industry was prolonged and decimating, and as predicted, the recovery is slow and gradual,” said Glenn Jones, Interim CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA).

“Our organisation is motivated to find green shoots within the industry and leverage those opportunities to accelerate the destination’s recovery in 2021.”

According to the report: “Among the year’s gloom, there was a sliver of positive momentum in late summer and early fall which permitted some much-needed economic activity in tourism. A short-lived, gradual recovery took shape late in the year as seen in figures showing 2020 performance versus the same month in the prior year:

•In July, 5 percent of leisure air visitor volume had returned

•In August, 10 percent of leisure air visitor volume had returned

•In September, 16 percent of leisure air visitor volume had returned

•In October, 26 percent of leisure air visitor volume had returned

The report continues: “November, the recovery figures began to fall off as the pandemic’s winter surge took hold in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

“During the months-long crisis, visitors from the UK took particular interest in Bermuda as it was one of the few British Government-approved travel corridors. At year-end, visitors from the U.K. market proved to be the most resilient of the island’s source markets, with leisure air arrivals down 71 percent year-over-year—outperforming the rest of leisure air arrivals which were down 86.6 percent overall. Like all air visitors in 2020, British visitors stayed longer than is typical. On average, leisure visitors from all countries stayed three days longer than they did in 2019—about eight days as opposed to five.

“The Government of Bermuda’s prudently engineered traveller arrival process of aggressive COVID-19 testing was the primary reason consumers chose Bermuda in the second half of last year. Endorsements for safety from the World Tourism & Travel Council and a Centers for Disease Control travel warning which was, at one stage, reduced to the lowest possible risk level provided the credibility consumers were looking for. In exit surveys, 98 percent of travellers said they felt ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ from COVID-19 while in Bermuda between July and December 2020.The same sentiment motivated the PGA TOUR to make the Bermuda Championship in October the first pro golf tour event to permit live spectators since the onset of the pandemic. Professional sports organisers of sailing’s Bermuda Gold Cup and World Match Racing Tour and rugby’s World Tens Series had the same confidence in Bermuda for their events.

“New policies improved Bermuda’s competitiveness in the superyacht tourism space. And despite the pandemic, 46 superyachts arrived on the island during the year, ushering in the country’s first superyacht charter guests—a benefit of January’s newly enacted legislation and a tangible area of growth for Bermuda going forward. While sports tourism and superyachts, U.K. visitors and digital nomads were silver linings in a dark and difficult year, even combined they do not come close to filling the gap of what was lost in 2020. Nonetheless, Bermuda fared better through this storm than many competing destinations and is positioned well to recover faster too as forecasts suggest travel habits returning to some normality by the middle of 2021. The Bermuda Tourism Authority will discuss its outlook for 2021 at a virtual public forum on February 19, 2021.”

The full 2020 Visitor Arrivals Report is available online at