Travel Agent recently attended a media breakfast hosted by Bermuda’s Minister of Business Development and Tourism, Hon. Wayne L. Furbert, and learned the island’s plans for the next decade.
Among a host of initiatives are plans for some big name luxury products, a heavy focus on sports tourism, a call to attract more people to both Long Bay and Horsehoe Bay and an emphasis on the MICE market. But perhaps the most intriguing plan calls for the island's first casino.
According to Furbert, a bill was recently passed four weeks ago which allows government to put forward referendums for public consideration. Furbert says a referendum specifically focused on gaming hould be expected in the future, but whether it will pass is another story.
“If my grandparents were here, they would say, ‘no,’ to casinos,” he says, “but if my children were here, they would say, ‘yes.’ Casinos are definitely something that is more for the younger generation.”
If casinos are eventually approved on the island, Furbert says he he would like for Bermuda to consider following the Singapore model that calls for charging clients a cover fee to enter a casino and also preventing people with gambling problems from wagering.
“They have a great system in Singapore where someone can report a family member who perhaps is spending too much money at a casino and then the casino will review it and if there is evidence that the person is in fact spending too much money, they will not allow them to play,” says Furbert. “We don’t want this to define our destination. We just want to give the people another option to enjoy themselves here.”
The destination is also looking to bring a luxury powerhouse to the island. Furbert told us that there are ongoing discussions with developers to get projects involving both St. Regis and a Park Hyatt hotels under contruction in the destination. If all goes well, Furbert said groundbreaking would commence this year.
As far as it beaches go, Bermuda is also looking into “livening up” its south shore beaches, says Furbert. Between both Long Bay and Horseshoe Bay, there are about 48 acres of unspoiled property that is currently going unutilized, Furbert says.
“For some reason, people just don’t go there and it’s a waste,” he says. “We’d like to bring some life to this area by adding some umbrellas, some music, some beach chairs and hopefully we’ll get some more people to enjoy these areas of Bermuda.”
Furbert says there will also be a new focus on both the MICE and sports tourism markets in an effort to drive up air arrivals. In fact, roughly 235,000 clients travel to Bermuda by air while cruise arrivals are nearly double that at about 400,000. While the cruise numbers are impressive, Furbert says air arrivals are way more vital to the island’s sustainability considering air passengers spend an average of about $150 per person while cruise passengers spend roughly $97 per person.
Furbert also says that Bermuda will strengthen its sports tourism market since many of its visitors come from cities with a heavy emphasis on athletics. Some upcoming events that could pad this market include the island's 30th PGA Grand Slam of Golf from Oct. 22-24; the Bermuda Corporate Games, a four-day, multi-sports event taking place Oct. 25-28 that will offer an array of athletic activities, ranging from golf and sailing to rugby and beach tennis, and is open to teams from multi-national corporations, both island-based and overseas and the new Bermuda Virtual Golf Classic.
From now through September 15, all visitors who play a round of golf at one of Bermuda’s participating courses will be included in an ongoing “virtual tournament” – complete with an updated leader board found on www.GoToBermuda.com/virtual. They will also automatically qualify to have their name entered into a drawing to win a round of golf with one of 2012’s Major PGA Champions during the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
“I think there is at least 20,000-30,000 people we can attract right away through sports tourism," says Furbert. "Just look at places like New York and Boston. The desire for sports tourism is out there. “