Bermuda’s tourism industry achieved its most impressive performance in a decade last year with the number of leisure air visitors and the money they spend on-island surging to double-digit percentage growth.

Presenting the 2017 Year-end Visitor Arrivals Report to industry stakeholders at Divots at Belmont Hills on Tuesday, the Bermuda Tourism Authority said the year also brought the highest number of visitors to the island in recorded history.

The 692,947 total arrivals in the best statistical performance dating back to 1965. Previously, 2007 was the high water mark. However, ten years ago the balance between air and cruise visitors was more evenly split, delivering a more significant positive impact for the local economy.

All key performance indicators for the tourism industry finished higher in 2017 when compared to the previous year:

  • Air leisure spending up 22.5%
  • Cruise spending up 7.6%
  • Leisure air arrivals up 11%
  • Hotel occupancy up 9.2%

“Beginning in 2014 the Bermuda Tourism Authority began a multi-year strategy to restore the island’s tourism industry to prominence. Last year was a major stride forward on that journey,” said BTA Chief Executive Kevin Dallas.

“Balancing air and cruise arrivals and breaking the back of seasonality remain areas where the industry has a lot of work to do, but the performance in 2017 should give all of Bermuda a dose of optimism that we can overcome our tourism challenges in the years ahead if we continue on the current path.”

Further driving optimism is the number of visitors under 45 years-old, which continues to power the Bermuda tourism industry comeback. About 83 percent of the growth in leisure air arrivals in 2017 is from visitors young than 45. It’s an audience that also had spending power in 2017.

The total estimated amount directly injected into the island’s economy by visitors in 2017 is $431 million, which represents a sizeable 20 percent increase over the previous year.

Bermuda’s tourism industry has been resurging since 2015, particularly over the past two years where the island has enjoyed eight consecutive quarters of leisure air arrival growth and increased leisure visitor spending.

Photos: Courtesy of the America’s Cup

The 35th America’s Cup played a critical role in driving demand and higher visitor spending, not only in May and June but throughout much of the year.

The number of visitors who chose vacation rentals when they travelled to Bermuda surged 133 percent in 2017 versus 2016, according to Airbnb data shared with the BTA.

Meantime, year-end hotel occupancy passed the 60 percent mark for the first time since 2017.

Shawn Sullivan of Airbnb said: “Bermuda represents an incredibly important and growing market for Airbnb. Through our partnership agreement with Bermuda’s government and tourism authority we have significantly grown our supply and increased the number of visitors for Bermudian homeowners.

“In 2018 we plan to further develop our partnership in Bermuda and engage the community with more home sharing educational seminars across the island.”

With all vacation rentals factored into the equation, 10 percent of total visitors chose vacation rentals last year.

Simultaneously, the hotel sector island-wide experienced a strong growth year with occupancy climbing 9 percent to 63 percent for the year. While the Bermuda hotel sector as a whole requires further growth to reach sustainable profitability levels, the performance in 2017 was the best in a decade.

On the revenue side, performance was even more impressive for local hotels with revenue per available room going up to 19.5 percent and the average daily rate moving 9 percent higher.

The 35th America’s Cup in 2017 played a critical role in driving demand and higher visitor spending for the hotel sector, not only in May and June but throughout the year.

Meantime, a sizable increase in hotel inventory is in the pipeline for the first time in a generation. By New Year’s Day 2018, Azura, Caroline Bay and the St George’s Resort all had shovels in the ground, and in some cases, structures taking shape.

When work is completed Bermuda will have 240 additional rooms to join up with a growing vacation rental inventory which surged 96 percent in 2017, among Airbnb listings.

A full year-end statistical report on tourism industry performance in 2017 is available on the Bermuda Tourism Authority website. A report detailing fourth quarter activity at the BTA is also available online.