The COVID-19 crisis had a severe impact on Bermuda’s tourism industry in the first quarter of 2020, causing unprecedented declines in the island’s visitor arrivals and spending.
According to data released today by the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), total air visitor arrivals were down 38 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago, with leisure air visitors down sharpest at 43.5 percent.
While air vacationers spent more per person, leisure air spending recorded a drop of 38 percent in Q1 due to lower volume—dipping from $32 million last year to just $19.8 million in 2020. Cruise passenger arrivals fell 41.8 percent on low winter season volume.
In line with closures elsewhere, Bermuda’s seaport and airport stopped receiving regularly scheduled commercial service after March 20 to protect public health and safety amid the global pandemic. The number of Bermuda visitors began to slide prior to the border restriction as travellers cancelled reservations, on-island events were postponed, and corporate bans on non-mandatory business travel took effect. A cruise ship call slated for March was also dropped.
“Year over year, air visitor declines of this magnitude are unparalleled in Bermuda’s modern history and they reflect the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our tourism industry,” said BTA Interim CEO Glenn Jones. “This year’s second quarter is even more worrying, as the return dates of regularly scheduled air and cruise travel to Bermuda remain unknown.”
First-quarter figures show a total of 13,607 leisure air visitors arrived in Bermuda in the first three months of the year, compared to 24,088 in 2019. While a decrease was anticipated due to airlift restraints, with fewer airline seats out of critical New York and Boston markets, the sharp decline in travellers was attributed to COVID-19’s impact.
“Heading into 2020, a lack of air capacity was our biggest concern—now, our biggest challenge is getting the tourism economy open again, safely and responsibly,” noted Jones.
“Our team is focusing all resources on recovery and every step in the tourism recovery is about jobs. In the hotel industry alone, where the workforce is 70 percent Bermudian, about 2,000 people are out of work. Since late March, we’ve been meeting regularly with the Ministry of Tourism & Transport to figure out how we get all those people back to work—strategising a safe return for tourism alongside a marketing plan that drives visitation later this year.”
Minister of Tourism & Transport Zane DeSilva said recovery talks have focused on re-opening Bermuda’s tourism industry when the time is right.
“We are working to solve problems no one has ever seen before,” the Minister said, “yet across the tourism economy—from hoteliers and retailers to restaurant owners and tour operators—I find people who are undaunted and fully committed to the task of bringing tourism back. That tenacity and dedication speaks to our resilience, and the collaboration is encouraging.”
- Top Feature Photo Courtesy of TNN