Oscuro Branson, a Progressive Minds blogger, has taken a few moments to comment on my concept of “less is more” when it comes to improving Bermuda tourism. Rather than respond in the comments of his blog, I’ve chosen to respond here for I’ve found that my comments are sometimes filtered out despite adhering to the stated BLOG RULES.
In brief review, what is the less is more concept? Very basically, due to our limited space, resource and capacity constraints, I believe that we should be striving for less tourists who spend more money. In short, quality over quantity.
It may seem counterintuitive, why would we want to turn away tourists? The real issue comes when we examine how cruise visitors compare to air visitors. At present, each air visitor spends approximately six times as much as each cruise visitor. This means we need 6 times as many cruise visitors to match one air visitor. The issue we have is that when you really get down to it, cruise visitors get more value for their money. They’re offered a better Bermuda vacation than air visitors and that is what truly is counterintuitive.
Take my 3 friends I have visiting the island this week. Two are staying in a hotel at some $350 a night and one is staying with me at my place. I decide to take them by a few of the sights on the island and show them a little about the island. I take them by Tobacco bay because it is one of the closer beaches to where I live and was always a childhood favorite of mine. Unfortunately, the cruise ship being in means that the beach is so packed that there is barely room to lay down a towel let alone walk to the water. I felt ashamed that I’d even shown them the beach because it was clear that we’d stuffed it so full of cruise visitors that the chances for my friends to relax and enjoy the beach that I love were slim.
I decide to show them the nightlife and subsequently take them out to the Pink Party at some $50 a ticket that was on at Snorkel Park on Saturday. When it came time that they’d had enough and wanted to leave, we went out to catch a taxi back to Hamilton, only there were none. We called a taxi company and ordered one. More waiting, still nothing. We decided we’d try walking out a ways to see if one were to come that we could pick it up before the many other people waiting. Still nothing. Of about an hours waiting, not one taxi came through. Again, I was ashamed that my friends were being shown a poor time for their money and there was little I could do about it.
My friends decided to go out to lunch and later told me about it. Unfortunately the restaurant was so packed that service was terrible. While the waiter was friendly, food took over an hour to arrive and my friends were starving. When I was told this, again I was ashamed that we had packed our restaurants so full with cruise visitors that my high paying friends couldn’t get reasonable service.
Then I think of the stories I hear from tourists at guest houses and hotels. Ones where they’ve waited an hour or more for taxis that don’t show up. If you were to go to where the cruise ships are, the taxi’s line up in wait to serve cruise visitors. Then you can talk to those air visitors who’d like to go out on a catamaran cruise, rent some jetskis, or swim with the dolphins and again I hear that often times they show up and there is no availability. “We’re sorry, we’ve already guaranteed all our spots to the cruise ship”. In the times that I am told these stores I am ashamed at the quality of our tourism product. Especially considering that these people are spending hundreds a night in a hotel while cruise visitors get priority.
The very crux of the problem is that we are not a volume based destination. We’re a tiny island of limited resources. We don’t have a great number of taxis, we don’t have a great number of restaurants and we don’t have 100 mile long beaches. When we let cruise passengers come in and run the show, the quality of vacation for our air visitors suffer. Air visitors who are contributing 6 times more money to our economy are treated with second class service to cruise passengers. Why do we do this? Where is the benefit when the increase in air visitors from 2006 over 2005 alone nearly equaled the amount of money that cruise visitors spent in 2005.
It may be a hard concept to understand, but less really is more when it comes to Bermuda tourism. By offering more exclusivity and better quality of service, we would be free to increase our prices. Air visitors would be willing to spend more money for a visit to Bermuda if it was more exclusive. That is if they were guaranteed quiet and unpacked beaches. If they got quick and reliable service from taxis, activities and restaurants. If they got a high quality vacation overall that you just cannot attain anywhere but in Bermuda. Air visitors shouldn’t have to compete with cruise in these regards. There are a great many destinations who cater to tourists en mass. We should be the destination where you get what you pay for.