News Release: HAMILTON, Bermuda – Bermuda’s tourism industry experienced a continued decline in visitor arrivals for the first quarter of 2021 as the island entered its second year under the weight of pandemic-induced travel disruption, according to data released by the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA).

Q1 2021 figures revealed total leisure air visitor arrivals fell by 88 percent compared to the same period in 2020. Even more stark, yet not unexpected, was the 100 percent decline in cruise ship arrivals year over year, however this category is set to be buoyed by a cruise ship homeporting programme slated to start in late Q2. Year over year comparisons should consider that Q1 2020 was primarily pre-pandemic and that the temporary shutdown of regularly scheduled commercial flights only started in late March 2020.

The data shows a reduction in Q1 airline capacity of 66.9 percent when compared to Q1 2020. Following last year’s airport closure which lasted more than three-months, amidst a near-collapse of the global travel industry, there was continued suppression of Bermuda’s airline capacity over the past year.

While the decline in capacity has been steep, and there is a long way to go before the island sees a return to 2019 levels, new airlift being added back this May and June will provide Bermuda with an opportunity to bring more visitors. Consumer demand is the critical driver for airline schedules.

Anticipated growth in demand is reflected in the incremental increases in airlift including Charlotte, Boston, and Newark taking place now. Airline capacity is important for the island’s hotels, and vacation rentals, as well as for the expected demand from cruise ship homeporting. Projected increases in capacity are expected in June as travel from key markets return.

“There had been cause for tempered optimism in Q1 considering anticipated progress in global vaccine roll-outs, and the strides made in visitor arrivals over previous months. However, we hadn’t envisioned that the global winter surge would leave two out of three of our key travel markets, UK and Canada, locked down under extended leisure travel bans, and that Bermuda would experience the beginnings of a growing local surge, fuelled by the UK variant,” said BTA CEO Charles H Jeffers II.

The report showed a dramatic drop in total visitor spending of approximately $17 million, which follows the decline in overall visitor numbers. However, not all the numbers were grim, as the average dollar-spend per visitor increased nearly 14 percent, as did the length of stay, rising 136% to an average stay of 14.13 days per visitor. Vacation rentals saw a marked increase in length of stay, rising year-on-year from 11 to just over 27 days per traveller. Longer stays and increased spending patterns are some of the bright spots that have emerged after a year of reduced international travel and rigorous travel protocols.

Mr Jeffers said: “While the impact of the pandemic will persist, we have reason to be optimistic for the summer. The rise in immunized consumers from our key markets, coupled with pent-up traveller demand, sets the stage for an audience ripe for a safe embrace of the Bermuda product this summer.

“Our message to vaccinated travellers in our key markets is that: We are open, safe, and nearby. We will woo them with improved airlift and significantly enhanced product offerings, from the launch of our innovative homeport cruise programme to the resurgence of St. George’s, which welcomes a host of new cultural experiences, and the opening of our latest luxury property, The St Regis; The island will see investment in iconic hotel properties and experiences around the island. 

“Our focus is on delivering a quality product, marketing aggressively to vaccinated travellers in key markets and engaging our community of stakeholders and supporters so that we deliver value, keep Bermuda safe and reinvigorate the hospitality economy.”

Premier David Burt, in his capacity as Minister Responsible for Tourism said: “Global travel suffered severe setbacks due to the pandemic, and Bermuda has not been spared. This report reveals in detail what we already see – our tourism sector is facing severe economic hardship. As one of our key economic pillars, it is vital that we turn this around.

“The fact is, the impact on our hospitality sector is far-reaching. The hotel industry has a workforce that is 70 percent Bermudian. These women and men’s livelihoods rely on the success of the sector. That’s why it has been so vital that we focus on securing the health and safety of the Island so that once our residents are safe, and protocols are in place, we can then welcome increased numbers of visitors to restore jobs, support businesses and move towards economic growth.

“We can be encouraged by the increasing numbers of vaccinated residents, investment in our tourism product, and strategic targeting of vaccinated travelers to choose Bermuda this year.”