Tourism: A fair and honest review

The following is an exerpt of a comment I recently posted on the Progressive Minds blog.  I feel the state of our tourism industry can be described with a fair and honest review, no spin necessary.  Spin only confuses people and takes away from the real efforts of those trying to improve our overall situation.  So, without further adu, here is my second quarter tourism report.

Efforts to boost air arrivals have been successful for the first quarter resulting in a net increase in visitors.  Business travellers have been increasing frequency of visits over the winter thanks to the lower cost airlines.  This increase has caused our traditional low season to start reaching for a high which is encouraging for future tourism development.
Due to new US passport regulations introduced in January, seasonal tourism numbers for April took a slight decline and we expect this decline to continue in the following months as Americans adjust to the new requirements.  Thankfully, the US immigration office has recently reconsidered their passport policy and opted to delay the requirement until October, only requiring travellers to have photo ID and proof of a passport application. This means that while we may be facing a slight decline in the months of April, May and half of June, we should see a resurgence in late June carrying through the summer for a good season overall.

 

Hopefully this added delay will give Americans time to adjust to the new requirements and we should expect another prosperous tourism season next year thanks to all the great efforts and hard work of our Tourism Ministry

PLP responsible for 27% DROP IN AIR ARRIVALS!!!

Have I got your attention?  No?

Did you know that during the period of 1998 through 2004 the PLP was responsible for a drop of $133 million in tourism revenue?

How about now?

Good, because according to numbers from the Caribbean Tourism Organization the above statements are accurate.  In 1997, the year before the PLP took power, air arrivals were 379,685.  In 2006, those numbers had dropped to 298,962, some 27% lower.  Visitor expenditure in 1998 was $486.8 million, in 2004 it was $353.7 million, a drop of $133 million.

Is it fair to blame the drop in air arrivals or visitor expenditure on the PLP?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Indeed they have been the governing body but they have also had to manage tourism through Hurricane Fabian, one of our worst, along with the fallout from the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York city.

Is it fair to over-sensationalize bad performance without the big picture?  No?  Well is it fair to over-sensationalize good performance without the big picture?  Statistics out of context can be twisted in many ways. 

Let’s take the recent tourism press release which the PLP youth blog picked up and sensationalized with the heading:

Press Release – Tourism Numbers SOAR!

Is it surprising that this was the reaction of the PLP youth wing?  Well when the numbers are presented like this:

 

Tourist Air Arrivals % increase/decrease:

 

Location JANUARY FEBRUARY MARCH
BERMUDA +24.8% +12.6% +17.9%
Bahamas -5.8% -8.2% -2.1%
Barbados -3.3% -4.7% *
British Virgin Islands +1.9% +1.1% *
Cayman Islands +17.7% +11.8% +11.6%
Jamaica -0.7% -4.0% -1.7%
Montserrat -2.9% -17.6% -9.2%
St. Lucia -13.2% -14.0% -4.5%

Source: Caribbean Tourism Organization
* Not available 

How could one not be excited?  But what is the real story?  Well, if you check the source and change the selection of numbers, you can paint a very different picture.

Tourist Air Arrivals % increase/decrease:

Location JANUARY FEBRUARY MARCH APRIL
BERMUDA +24.8% +12.6% +17.9% -3.9%
Cancun(Mexico) +105% +58.2% +40.3% +42.5%
Cozumel +236.9% -8.4% * *
British Virgin Islands +1.9% +1.1% * *
Cayman Islands +17.7% +11.8% +11.6% *

Source: Caribbean Tourism Organization
* Not available 

Are these numbers accurate?  Yes they are.  But do you note what is different from the above version?  Well, the -3.9% drop in April was conveniently left out to make the numbers look better.  Also note how most of the comparative numbers chosen were negative or less than Bermuda’s. 

Does it paint a fair picture?  Is it fair to over-sensationalize good or bad performance without the big picture?  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. 

 

— Update:

Fixed typo: “in 1994 it was $353.7 million” was supposed to be “in 2004 it was $353.7 million”

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ProgressiveMinds.bm = Biased?

To my surprise, neither of the two comments I’ve posted on the www.progressiveminds.bm blog site over the past couple days have been approved.

How come I’m good enough to be syndicated when writing from a pro-PLP stance, but when asking the hard questions, I get silenced?

Below are comments I posted earlier today (though others timestamped after mine have been approved) on the post Press Release – Tourism numbers SOAR!  Are these the kind of comments that shouldn’t be allowed?

—-

 

 

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.

“I’ll believe it’s been a banner quarter when you can tell me in statistics that include non-bermudian, bermudian, resident, non-resident, business, pleasure and hopefully how much is approximated to have been contributed to the economy by each group. Until then, these numbers mean nothing to me.”

I’ve asked it in multiple places, even the PLP blog to zero response.

“What are the numbers in reference to “Tourists” in the breakdowns I suggested?

Suggesting simply ‘arrivals’ is ambiguous and potentially very misleading and I do not believe it is a fair statistic that truly represents the state of our Tourism industry.

While perhaps arrivals does mean tourists, I would like this clarification as if it does not then we may well be setting ourselves up for failure as the only true measure of our success is how much money we make from Tourism, not the number of people who visit.”

Also, I’d like to see a comparison of the increase/decrease in the numbers over the last 10-20 years to give a fair estimate to how we’re performing now when compared to pre-Fabian (total available rooms) and pre-9/11

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Open Sesame

Speaking with people about the days when the PLP were first elected, many suggest that one of the worst tactics that the UBP, or at least their supporters, used in the run up to elections was the boogeyman defense.  That being that rather than base their election campaigns on the merits of being able to manage the country better than their opponents, the UBP, or at least many UBP supporters, resorted to the tactic of suggesting that the election of the PLP would result in the mass exodus of international business and the collapse of the Bermudian economy, otherwise known as the ‘boogeyman’.

Some 9 years later, with a PLP government no less, there has been no collapse and no exodus.  The Bermudian economy has not only remained strong, in some ways it may be too strong as we have witnessed rampant growth that has introduced other problems.  While the PLP government has not been a perfect one, no government can be and the supposed ‘boogeyman’ of pre-1998 has not materialized.  This is why it was incredibly surprising to read in today’s paper that the Premier has suggested that he is wary of the Opposition’s intentions and their election could mean a return to the days of the “40 thieves”. 

Only months ago, had you asked any random person on the street what you thought the prospects were for the next election they likely would have told you that the PLP was a heavy favorite.  My how things have changed since then.  We’ve seen many revelations over the past weeks including damning allegations against specific members of the PLP including Premier Brown himself being accused of corruption and abuse of power which amount to theft from the public purse.  While it has not become clear whether the allegations are founded in any form of truth, Premier Brown’s actions over the past few weeks have raised the suspicions of many who otherwise wouldn’t even have noticed.

What of these “40 thieves”?  What should we watch out for?  Will they do such dastardly things as steal cedar beams from government buildings?  How about swindle the foundation responsible for housing Bermuda’s misfortunate?  Certainly we’ve developed too much of a culture of entitlement to deserve affordable housing?  Are the 40 thieves going to do even worse deeds?

Perhaps we should recollect the story of Ali Baba, the origin of the “40 thieves” reference.  Was it not Cassim, Ali Baba’s rich brother, who went into the cave of the “40 Thieves” to take some of the treasure for himself?  Who, in the height of his greed and excitement, forgot the magic words to get back out?  No matter how many attempts, phrases like “gag order” and “exonerated” just didn’t seem to work.

So now the PLP have gone from being the clear leader in the next election to being questionably ahead (yet to be confirmed by recent polls).  Premier Brown has resorted to bringing out the same boogeyman tactic that the UBP is supposed to have used as a means to sway support away from the UBP.  Here we have it.  History is repeating itself.  What a sad sight it is that the PLP has to reduce themselves to such tactics which adds credence to the suggestion that the PLP is little different than the UBP when they were in power.

Citizens beware.  The boogeyman is back. 

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BHC scandal gets crazier

Things I don’t get while reading “Premier attacks justice system”:

  1. It’s ‘It’s demeaning, embarrassing and insulting’ for the Premier to be accused of corruption tied to the BHC Scandal but it’s not demeaning in the slightest for the Premier to accuse the Opposition of electioneering  and scandalization with absolutely no evidence to support it?
  2. If Premier Brown was ‘exonerated’ by the investigation, than would that fact not be clearly demonstrated by the evidence contained in the unreleased portions of the BHC investigation?  If so, why is the Premier unwilling to release these portions to the public to prove his innocence?
  3. Why is it a “disappointing day for all Bermuda’s innocent citizens” when “confidential documents related to Police investigations are fit to print” but it is not disappointing when any individual can be arrested and detained without being charged?
  4. “The ruling seems grossly unfair and is a devastating blow to public confidence in the Police.” 

    Wait, the potential of being arrested at any time without charge isn’t a devastating blow to public confidence in the Police?

  5. “The court was asked to adjudicate on the prevention of public access to stolen official documents in a despicable political plot in which lies, half truth and innuendoes had been thoroughly investigated.” 

    Remember the Public Access to Information Legislation promised by the PLP?   Where is it?  Shouldn’t we have had public access to the conclusions of this four year old investigation of a public entity?

  6. “The Chief Justice’s ruling and the ruling today legitimates the publication of any and all allegations lodged with law enforcement agencies, whether factual or not, whether in execution of conspiracies to commit public mischief or not.” 

    Does it not also legitimize the publication of their conclusions or dare I say ‘exonerations’ to such allegations?

  7. The Premier’s spokesman said in his statement yesterday: “As Premier Brown has stated publicly, he is not overly concerned with protecting the information relating to him because he has been exhaustively investigated and fully exonerated in a probe conducted by the Bermuda Police Service, Scotland Yard and US Homeland Security.

    Put your money where your mouth is.  If the information exonerates Premier Brown publish it so we can all see that the allegations are false and untrue.  If they indeed are, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain, unless indeed someone is guilty and being protected by taking the time required to modify the documents.

  8. John Barritt states “The United Bermuda Party would like the people to take note of the extraordinary lengths Government is going to in this matter, at extraordinary costs. Whose interests are they advancing now?” he asked, estimating the legal fees will head into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Who exactly is paying for all this?  How much more money is being taken from the public purse than already has?

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‘They’ who?

I found this exerpt of a recent article in the gazette quite interesting.

During the radio interview, Dr. Brown told Mr. Dill investigators never questioned him over allegations against him: “Therefore I was exonerated and to call on me now to answer each and every allegation, I think is a bit preposterous,” he said, adding later: “In most civilised societies, we just don’t expose the contents of Police files. Having said that, I want to repeat — they can reveal anything they have in the file about me personally. I know that we are totally in the clear and have been exonerated after an investigation that apparently included Scotland Yard, the FBI and Homeland Security, so there was no issue there.”

Personally, I would like to know what the police file says specifically the conclusions made with regards to the alleged allegations including evidence to support or deny such claims.

Who does Premier Brown mean by “they”?  Who do I need to talk to in order to attain such data so that we can determine the truth?  Clearly the paper is not allowed to publish it so is this a suggestion by Premier Brown that the police themselves are now free to release these details to the public?  If so, where can I attain them?  Hopefully their release will put this matter behind us and we can get back to putting our country on the right track.

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Questioning the bigger picture

As Bermudians we are so caught up in our own issues that many often forget that there is a larger world out there.  If you were to ask any random Bermudian on the street what our most critical issues are you would likely hear mostly internal ones: racism, housing, high cost of living, corrupt leadership, overpopulation; the list goes on.  Do we have a tendency to become so caught up in life on our little rock that many fail to consider the bigger picture?

The US Federal Reserve is rushing to slow their fast growing economy and clamp down on a swift rise in cost of living called inflation.  The US Congress and Senate are in the middle of debating energy policy yet are seemingly unable to put together anything with teeth that will shield the US from the looming energy crisis as global consumption of oil increases and production diminishes.

One core issue that is not addressed in Bermuda politics is how do we survive the long term?  Bermuda is heavily oil dependant and yet few realise how dependant we really are.  Our electricity is generated from diesel fuel and while we have pipe dreams of creating underwater turbines, it is largely an unproven technology.  We are a mass importer and at present would be severely unable to sustain ourselves if we encountered any disruption of imports.  We rely on oil powered container lines and airplanes to keep our economy going, our vehicles are oil based as is most of our way of life.

The US faces similar issues on a larger scale and are largely throwing money behind the wrong horses.  Heavy investment in corn based ethanol is having severe implications for a variety of reasons.  Corn prices have been driven up forcing prices of all foods reliant on corn to rise with them.  Farmers have been so quick to jump on the high prices of corn that they’ve jumped off of other crops like wheat (Wheat prices hit 11-year high), cotton (Cotton Extends Rally to Three-Year High)  and soybeans (Corn, Soybeans Rise).  Corn is a volatile and unreliable crop in comparison to others, requiring a longer growing cycle and better weather.  It also requires more fertilizer and better farm equipment which requires more fuel to power.  If the ethanol gamble doesn’t play out very well we could see oil (Oil Rises to Nine-Month High) and food (Cost of Gas and Food Rose Sharply Last Month) prices skyrocket here in Bermuda in the coming months/years because we are so heavily tied to the US economy.

How do we ensure that Bermudian cost of living does not spiral out of control as the growing energy crisis impacts various staples of the Bermudian economy?  Is this even on the books and do our politicians even have the capacity to understand the bigger picture?

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The glaring question

There is one key glaring point that stands out about the Son of the Soil email that makes me skeptical:

If the Bermuda Housing Corporation report named multiple people, specifically members of parliament and prominant citizens, as having been the target of allegations, why then is it that every single one of the 22 points made in the Son of the Soil email are specifically targeted at Premier Brown?

This stands out and makes me wonder.

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The people have a voice

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

                                  — Abbott Joseph Liebling, 1904-1963

The internet has changed society as we know it.  In today’s world every and any individual has become a publisher.  Today any individual has the power to say anything they want and be heard by the entire world.  Freedom of speech has reached the masses.

The internet is having an incredible impact on the spread of information.  Just as the introduction of the printing press changed the scope of how information is shared by allowing ideas of science, religion and classical arts to spread, the internet is also changing the way information propogates, on a much more global and impactful level.

Today knowledge spreads like a virus.  The internet has enabled any individual to share their thoughts to the rest of the world.  Today’s example of the mass emailing of the letter outlining allegations regarding the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal and subsequent posting on sites like www.bermudasucks.com and www.facebook.com are simply acts that demonstrate how true freedom of speech and freedom of press have reached the people.

Whether or not the allegations are true, they have taken on a life of their own.  Whether we like it or not, the future will never be the same.   Googleability, “The ease with which information about a person can be found on an Internet search engine, particularly Google”, is upon us.  The participatory panopticon is coming, the age where any individual with a camera phone can take snapshot evidence of human existance at any moment of time, published on the internet for the rest of time. 

The future will undoubtedly bring a whole new world, for there is no putting the genie back in the bottle on this one.  The face of politics is rapidly changing.  Today’s youth have access and ability to ask the Premier questions in an open forum on the www.facebook.com website, something never dreamed of in the past. 

Citizens are gaining more access to information and they desire it.  The people want to know more just as they want to contribute more.  They want to ask questions, they want to know facts and they want a hand in the decision making process, even if it is a small one.

The future shall bring a revolution in the way we approach governance of ourselves.  Participatory democracy is coming.  The people have a voice and they are beginning to embrace it.

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"Stem cell research commercial makes Bush look dumb"

Courtesy of ScienceBlog.com I’ve picked up on a commercial developed by Jerry Zucker, director of My Best Friend’s Wedding, Naked Gun, Airplane and many others, which advocates support for the funding for further stem cell research which President Bush promised to veto.  Quite a good watch so I thought I’d share it here. 

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