Newstead Belmont Hills GM  BHA Chairman Bushara Bushara, BHA CEO Stephen Todd, Minister Burch, Hamilton Princess & Beach Club GM & BHA President Tim Morrison, & Fairmont Southampton GM, Hotel Employers of Bermuda President & BHA Director Kiaran MacDonald

Now is the time to make Bermuda a year-round destination, according to Acting Minister of Tourism, Lieutenant Colonel David Burch.

Speaking at the Bermuda Hotel Association’s Annual General Meeting held on Thursday (October 24) at Fourways Inn, the Public Works Minister said: “I think we all agree that empty hotel rooms in winter do no-one any good.

“Let’s work—collaboratively—to get heads in beds year-round.

“Your industry now has technology tools available to allow you to make informed decisions around revenue management and to attract visitors in ways that would have been impossible just a few short years ago.

“Let’s use those resources to get people here during the non-summer season when we all know Bermuda is a perfect escape…but only if the price is right.

“You and your businesses understand all those principles. And I know you are already committed to keeping this industry forward-looking.”

In the interim, he said there is reason to be optimistic about the future of Bermuda’s tourism industry and that the Government will work to encourage home-grown talent in the tourism sector.

As one of Bermuda’s two “core economic pillars, alongside international business”, he said: “Our hotels are critical to the success of both sectors.”

But he said: “We live in challenging times, for the tourism industry in particular.

“Competition from other destinations is high, as you well know. The cost of air travel to and from the island is also high, and subject to decisions often beyond our control.

“The global economy is facing pressures such as trade tariffs, federal elections, and divisive issues like Brexit that can wreak havoc on our customers’ pocketbooks and travel plans,” said Col Burch.

“But there are many reasons to feel optimistic about Bermuda’s hospitality industry right now:

  • While 2019 figures may be down, in the past three years leisure arrivals have gone up by almost half—46 percent to the end of 2018–and that’s quite an accomplishment
  • Leisure air visitor spending–another very important data point—is up by a whopping 67 percent since 2015
  • Most visitors are feeling genuinely positive about their Bermuda experience; in 2019 exit surveys to date, 82 percent of air visitors say they’d definitely recommend our island to others. That has a lot to do with you, by the way, and your respective teams’ success in creating memorable visitor experiences
  • We have a new airport terminal taking shape to be operational next year
  • The Government, with the BTA, Skyport, and Bermuda Airport Authority, have hired experienced air-service development consultants to help shape a long-term sustainable airlift strategy for the coming years
  • Perhaps, most notably, in the context of Bermuda history—a raft of brand-new hotel projects are coming online very soon to join your own properties

“These are all advancements worth celebrating, and they should translate into a growth in hotel beds, tourism revenue, local optimism and positive global recognition of the Bermuda brand,” said Col Burch.

“I am confident we can meet other global challenges the same way. The spirit of shared responsibility and togetherness will guide our success in this industry. And everyone has a role to play.

“As new hotels open in the next two years—the St Regis, the Azura Bermuda, and Bermudiana Beach Resort—and as your existing needs also grow due to the aging population, we hope to work with you to attract, and retain, Bermudians to fill new openings in the industry.”

Based on a PwC study, he noted that “the gap between Bermuda’s future talent supply and demand for hospitality workers may range between 555 and 814 positions by 2021

“That’s driven largely by the total estimated 335 new hotel rooms due to become available. The range is based on differing scenarios in 2021, depending on whether new properties open by target dates,” said Col Burch.

“Our Government’s Department of Workforce Development is currently working with the BTA and the Bermuda College on an outreach initiative to connect with Bermudians who may be interested in hospitality careers.

“We’ve created a database through which they can be alerted about job openings, specific training, and learning and development opportunities if they need to refresh or learn new skills.

“It’s a first step in a larger campaign that we hope can prepare Bermudians to be ready for the opportunities ahead.

“We invite you to work with us to ensure we leverage the home-grown talent we have in our own community to fill those jobs.

As Minister of Public Works, he said both the St Regis and Bermudiana Beach Resort are “approaching staffing in a very different manner”, by “recruiting and training staff…before the hotels open”.

“In the case of Bermudiana Beach Resort – there is a strong likelihood that the General Manager will be a Bermudian.

“That said – we are fully cognizant that not every job can be filled by a Bermudian – but we are determined to put Bermudians first and equally commit to working with you to fulfill those remaining jobs with guest workers without any difficulties.”

Environmental protection and long range conservation presents another “challenging opportunity”.

The new Integrate Resource Plan (IRP) “has a to-do list across Ministries and its ambitions include substantially reducing single-use plastics and lowering energy consumption”.

“Bermuda through the advocacy of Keep Bermuda Beautiful is fully conversed with the United Nations Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region”, he said.

“There is much to be learned from their research that in many instances is parallel to ours.

“The collaboration in this regard will greatly assist us in developing our own action plans.

Work on the Water and Waste Water section “will also go a long way in addressing once and for all the discharge of raw sewage into the waters surrounding Bermuda”.

“A pilot programme is already underway in the East End to serve as a template for the entire island.

“The IRP could be transformative for the island and lead the way for our tourism industry—so your support will be essential.

“Hotels will naturally play a leading role, not only in achieving the concrete goals of energy reduction, but also by setting an example for our community and sending a message to the world about Bermuda’s commitment to sustainability.”

In closing, he commended hoteliers “for the quality hospitality and professional service you deliver every single day to our visitors”.

“We’re committed to working with you and other partners to keep this industry strong and growing,” he said.

“By working together, I truly believe we can continue to set Bermuda apart.”