News Release: Hamilton, Bermuda, May 8, 2019 – Bermuda’s tourism industry in the first quarter of this year could not eclipse 2018’s accelerated pace, yet it still outperformed the first three months of 2017. Both leisure air visitor spending and leisure air visitor arrivals were down by single-digit percentages year-over-year, according to new Bermuda Tourism Authority data released today.
Vacationers who arrived by air spent more per person than a year ago, but since the overall volume of leisure air visitors was down, total estimated spending was off 2.5 percent to $32 million. That amounts to a $776,000 year-over-year reduction for direct leisure air visitor spending into the local economy. However, the 2019 spending number was far better than 2017, up by more than $5.5 million.
The volume of leisure air visitors was down 8.5 percent, a decrease of about 2,200 travellers. Air capacity played a role in the lack of growth with the amount of airline seats to the island down 3.5 percent—including a 12 percent fall off from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, amounting to 5,000 fewer seats. More commercial airline seats fly to Bermuda from New York City than anyplace else and is the island’s largest source market for visitor arrivals.
Although no one in Bermuda’s tourism industry likes down arrows, we see the first quarter performance as a glass half full scenario,” said Bermuda Tourism Authority Chief Executive Kevin Dallas. “The first quarter of 2019 outperformed the first quarter of 2017, so we believe the industry is still in a strong position. If these 2019 numbers happened a year ago, the tourism industry would be elated.
“The significant increase in 2018 is something we’ll have to contend with throughout 2019 as we work toward year-over-year growth for the industry.”
For leisure air visitor spending and arrivals, the first quarter of 2019 is the first down quarter since the fourth quarter of 2015. The streak of quarterly growth lasted 12 consecutive quarters.
The initial three months of the year bring the lightest traveller volume to Bermuda, creating an opportunity for the industry to rebound before year-end. It’s hoped a new US Open marketing partnership and a recently launched sports tourism strategy will help to make a positive impact on 2019 performance.
Fewer visitors led to lower hotel occupancy (off 5.6 percent) but hotels were able to command marginally higher rates than a year ago (up 2.6 percent). Vacation rentals performed well with a slightly greater share of visitors choosing to stay in private homes (from 7.8% in Q1 2018 vs 8.2% in Q1 2019).
Meantime, the Bermuda Tourism Authority strategy to grow cruise visits outside the summer months continues to advance the jurisdiction toward a more active year-round visitor destination. Cruise vacationers were up 137 percent in the first three months of this year, almost doubling last year’s passenger totals and ahead of 2017 figures as well. Cruise arrivals helped drive overall first quarter leisure numbers into positive territory year-over-year.