Bermuda Pushes Tourism Growth

Warwick Long Bay Beach, Bermuda // Photo by Joe Pike

This past week, we caught up with several representatives of Bermuda’s tourism scene, including the CEO of the still-new Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA): William Hanbury; Shawn Crockwell, the minister of Tourism Development and Transport; and Michael H. Dunkley himself--the islands’ Premier. 

Hanbury began the meeting noting that the BTA, at less than a year old, is independent from the government and not dependent on politics. The Authority’s focus, he said, would be on rebuilding Bermuda’s tourism economy, which he acknowledged had slipped over the last several years. “We lost our edge,” he said, “and we want to go back.” By reaching out to the U.S. and Canadian markets (“where the fish are,” he noted), Hanbury believes that Bermuda can become a year-round luxury destination. 

Dunkley, meanwhile, said that the problem was simply that Bermuda “stopped selling” itself to travelers. In this environment, he added, “if you’re not current, you’ll get lost.” The America’s Cup yacht race, which Bermuda is bidding to host in 2017 (competing with San Diego), may bring some needed publicity and attention. The America’s Cup Event Authority, the event organizer, reportedly cited the island’s “long history of success” with other major sailing races, such as the Newport to Bermuda race and the Bermuda Gold Cup match-racing event. A decision on the host location is expected before the end of the year.

“We are committed to radical change,” Crockwell said, noting the privatization of the BTA as a “radical” move. The other major transition he expects to see in coming years will be legalized casinos. While many Bermudians disapprove of gambling, he noted, the islands’ tourism scene requires legalization in order to compete with other popular destinations. (The BTA and government are reportedly looking at Singapore as a model, Crockwell said.) “We’re not looking for lots of slot machines,” Crockwell added. “This would be three hotels with casinos.” In theory, he noted, Bermuda could be faster for New Yorkers to reach than the Hamptons in the summer—“And no traffic!” he said.

Luxury Hotels

Bermuda may also get attention from high-income travelers with some new and renovated hotels throughout the islands. The first phase of the $90+ million renovation to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess was recently completed, with updated guest rooms and suites, a new 1609 Bar and Restaurant, a 60-berth marina, an infinity-edge resort pool and an extensive public modern art program including pieces created by Andy Warhol. Phase two of the renovation began this month, with a new signature restaurant from celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson, a new Heritage Court Restaurant and Bar as well as new guest rooms in the main building of the hotel.

The Fairmont Southampton recently emerged from a renovation of its own, and Morgan’s Point is set to get a 200-room hotel.

Meanwhile, Michael Douglas and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones are reportedly working on a luxury hotel project of their own, and will refurbish the former Ariel Sands Beach Club. 

“Every hotel is looking to renovate,” Premier Dunkley said, “ 2015 will be a big year.”  

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