Stressed? Need a vacation to get away from it all? The busy life, the hectic streets, the so called rat race? Come to the place where there is no Starbucks. Take your next vacation in peaceful Bermuda.
Not too long ago I had an interesting thought. Are we one of the only places in the world not penetrated by the Starbucks empire? Starbucks, like McDonalds and other huge franchises seem everywhere, just not here in Bermuda. In some ways Bermuda seems untouched from the rest of the world. In others, we’ve bought into the flashy lifestyle, the expensive cars, the big screen TVs and the Louis Vuitton everywhere. Bermuda still does hold some exclusivity and it is that which we should be doing our best to exploit to rebuild tourism.
A reader from the Caymans passed along an editorial in the Cayman net news asking the same questions of whether cruise is really worth it and if we should be taking a less is more approach to tourism.
From the editorial:
the [Cayman] government’s latest master plan to solve the imbalance in the tourism sector between relative numbers of stay-over and cruise visitors, as well as the high cost of getting and staying here, is to target high net worth individuals – to be the destination of choice for the rich and famous.
That concept may have worked when we were “the islands that time forgot”, and we had a distinctive quality that set us apart from our competitors.
However, time remembered us with a vengeance and within the space of a few short years brought us the fast-food franchises, hotel chains, and unbridled development that have gone a long way towards submerging our once unique identity in the concrete and traffic that anyone can experience in a zillion other places in the world.
Sounds a bit like Bermuda. We’re lucky to have put a stop to fast food franchises years ago, but we do suffer from unbridled development in the form of Special Development Order after Special Development Order, with more to come. Do you even need to be reminded about our traffic woes? Solutions to which I’ve written on numerous occasions such as dedicated school buses, taxi-buses, rush-hour sensitive congestion taxes and car sharing.
For years, the Cayman Islands seemed to have a unique formula for tourism success, targeting a very specific niche market that made up for its lack of volume with its disposable vacation income and generous spending habits.
They must have stolen this formula from old Bermuda for isn’t it what made Bermuda tourism a success?
Cayman’s tourism formula was to attract a certain type of guest — and our visitors were made to feel more like guests back then — who did not mind paying a premium price for a Caribbean destination that offered safety, convenience and friendly hosts in a laid-back, uncrowded environment.
The visitors who were attracted to this kind of tourism product were usually high-earning professionals who primarily wanted to get away from their hectic lifestyles. These people didn’t really mind that there were not dozens of attractions to see, and in fact liked the fact that the Cayman Islands did not have the typical “tourist traps” of many other Caribbean destinations.
Does this sound remarkably like what I’ve been advocating for Bermuda to resurrect tourism?
To return to our headline question, is it too late – have we killed the goose that laid the golden stay-over tourism egg? Clearly, it’s impossible to turn back the clock and undo all the ill-considered development, so we are stuck now in the unenviable position of being a mini-Miami Beach, that’s much more expensive to stay in and to get to than the real thing.
For Bermuda it isn’t too late just yet. Put an end to the SDO’s. Improve what we have now. Slow down. Get rid of cruise ships. Take a less is more approach. Bring back EXCLUSIVITY!
Do we therefore continue the logical progression and try to turn ourselves into the next Paradise Island, with casinos and mass tourism? And what of the divers from all lifestyles that came back to the Cayman Islands year after year after year?
We already are an island paradise. We’ve got some of the best diving in the world. Some of most beautiful golf courses and one of the best beaches in the world. We’ve got the location. We’ve got the infrastructure. We’ve got the resources.
It may be too late for the Caymans, but it isn’t too late for Bermuda.