It’s no secret that Bermudians love Louis Vuitton. Pay 10 times the price for a product of the same quality simply because of it’s name and recognized brand. Somehow buying someone else’s name makes your own image seem more reputable. As my father always tells me, “Son, you get what you pay for” and you can’t argue with the fact that with Louis Vuitton what you’re paying for is branding and exclusivity.
Compare Louis Vuitton’s approach to the one we use for Bermuda tourism. We’re pandering to the lowest denominator in order to tout the highest “arrival” numbers while not paying attention to what really matters: $$$. Cruise ships and discount tourists are our business as we think we can compete with the rest of the Caribbean in this market. It’s saddening. Ask most Americans what they think of Bermuda and their likely response is “who? Oh, you mean one of those Caribbean islands?”, though we’re not even in the Caribbean. To the outside world and those who haven’t witnessed the beauty of our tranquil waters and uniqueness of our architecture and culture, Bermuda is just another island.
The Bermuda I dream of is one that is like the Louis Vuitton of tourism. I dream of Bermuda being a name so reputable and exclusive that when someone says they went to Bermuda on vacation, jaws drop open in disbelief and envy. Bermuda should be prestigious, exclusive and the place where everyone wishes they could be and are willing to pay a premium to say they were here.
As I’ve said before, cruise ships are not the answer. Cruise ships are like Louis Vuitton introducing a wal-mart line of products. If Louis Vuitton carried a wal-mart line that anyone could buy, it would kill the exclusivity of the brand. Cruise ships make Bermuda accessible to the “wal-mart” of tourists. There is of course nothing wrong with the “wal-mart” class of tourists, only that they’re further down the long tail. Making money on the “wal-mart” class requires targeting large volumes for little profits. This model works perfectly in large Caribbean destinations but on our tiny little island, we’re easily strained.
Today most hotels are packed with foreign workers. Why? Because the profits are so slim that you can’t pay people very well and thus the demands of the jobs are not attractive for Bermudians. Our cost of living is already high enough. If we were the Louis Vuitton of tourism, the exclusivity and quality of product offered would allow us to charge 10 times the price of other accessible destinations of similar quality. Being the Louis Vuitton of tourism means we can greatly increase our profit margins while decreasing the overall numbers of tourists. If our profit margins were larger, we could pay our people more. If we attracted high rollers, it would be lucrative to work in the tourism industry rather than a struggle. Bermudians would have options other than international business again.