Travel Agent recently invited Caribbean tourism delegates to a roundtable discussion in New York to get first hand status updates from both the islands that were devastated by last year’s hurricane season and the ones that escaped major damage.
Included in the discussion were Kim Jack Riley, Antigua and Barbuda’s director of tourism for the USA; Cardigan Connor, parliamentary secretary for Anguilla's tourism sector; Petra Roach, U.S. director of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.; Celia Ross-Latham, director of sales for the St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Office; Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer at the Bermuda Tourism Authority; Perla George, business development director for North America at the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board; Mikala Moss, area manager for New York for the Bahamas Tourist Office; Christine Noel-Horsford, director of sales and marketing for the Grenada Tourism Authority; and Sylma Brown, director for the U.S. for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
Ruthanne Terrero and Joe Pike of Travel Agent magazine and Travel Agent Central moderated the conversation.
In this piece, we focus on the latest travel updates in Bermuda provided to us by Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer at the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Be sure to keep following Travel Agent in the coming weeks as we will break down the status updates from some of the other destinations involved in the discussion.
Impact of Hurricane Season
Although not technically located in the Caribbean, the island still took a bit of a tourism hit from a consumer base and some media outlets that thought every warm weather destination associated with the Caribbean was destroyed, says Isley.
“As we say, Bermuda is of the Caribbean, but not in the Caribbean, and as an American representing Bermuda, I can say how ignorant Americans are sometimes about geography, and even, unfortunately, some media outlets," says Isley. “We’re very fortunate to have been outside of the geographic area impacted by the hurricanes. But because of some of the misreporting from media, we did have an impact in September."
But that dip didn’t last for long.
"We've had seven quarters of increased visitation to Bermuda, so quite a come back story for an island that had let tourism go by the wayside," she told Travel Agent back in February. "We ended 2017, actually, with the largest number of recorded visitors in Bermuda's history.”
Renovated Hamilton Princess Tops Latest Hotel News
As far as the most buzzworthy hotel news on the island goes, Isley points to the recently renovated Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. A recently completed $100 million, three-year renovation project has added new luxury features to the longstanding hotel.
The third, and last, phase introduced a new gym, and the hotel has also announced the opening of an Exhale spa, with indoor and outdoor space and a renovated pool, as well as nine treatment rooms and a new poolside pergola for outdoor fitness classes and activities.
The spa also has a nail salon. Waxing, massages and a variety of facials are on the menu. Male and female therapists are available, as is a couple’s room for those interested in a side-by-side massage. There is also a studio for group fitness classes.
“I think the Hamilton Princess, with their renovation that they went through last year, is a perfect example of [keeping the hotels on island up to date],” says Isley. “There are floor-to-ceiling windows, and it’s overlooking the pool, that’s overlooking the harbor, and it’s a real centerpiece of the experience. It’s also one that I think does a great job of blending locals with visitors, because there are locals that belong to that gym, so there’s a really great mix there, that it’s not just visitors that are in that gym.”
The Island’s Biggest Challenges
Isley told Travel Agent that a pressing issue for Bermuda is sustained growth. Isley also says the destination would like to see spending by visitors spread throughout the entire island, instead of just in concentrated areas.
“For Bermuda, one of the issues that we’re looking at is sustained growth," she says. "So, we’ve had the turnaround in terms of air arrivals to Bermuda, but we want to continue on that path, so sustained growth is one."
Isley says Bermuda's second biggest obstacle, spreading spending by tourists throughout the destination, is currently being solved by locals themselves.
“Second is then distribution of experience and spending throughout the island, and that’s both from hotel visitors as well as cruise passengers," she says. "We have a dual message there. One of the things with the Bermuda Tourism Authority when we were privatized four years ago is we do have the sales and marketing component, but we do have product and an experienced team as well. We have a whole team that’s working with Bermudians in terms of getting reinvested in the tourism experience, and it’s really exciting to have young Bermudians and entrepreneurs be a part of that.”