Tourism: an update

Back near the end of June, I provided an example of what a fair and honest review of the state of our tourism industry should look like as seen from the perspective of this writer.  Political spin not included.

It was noted that

“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 travelers to have photo ID and proof of a passport application.”

For those in the know, this US passport regulation change is not new as it was originally introduced in the early part of this year.  The delay in October and less restricted requirements may have helped salvage our summer with regards to tourism.  However, when noting a recent Royal Gazette article, it is interesting to note a couple things.

A warning from Premier Brown with regards to the impact of the new restrictions.

New restrictions requiring US citizens must travel with passports could damage tourism, Premier Ewart Brown has warned.

Oddly, while hotel occupancy isn’t as high as it was touted in may, it is up 6 percent while arrivals are down.  What this means is up for debate.

Tourism in Bermuda has had mixed results in the second quarter with hotel occupancy levels up to 84 percent, an increase of six percent compared to last year. However air arrivals for the second quarter were down by 1.5 percent to 99,594.

Here’s a gem worth noting.

Cruise passengers are still exempt from the new laws until 2009.

For those eager for more info-porn, feel welcome to read the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Latest 2007 Tourism Statistics Tables (Sept. 17, 2007), for the full picture of tourism throughout the caribbean.    Here are some exerpts with relation to Bermuda.

 

Air arrivals

During Jan-Jul, overall arrivals were 182,892, an increase of 2.4% over last year.  Thus far, the winter yielded an increase of 8.7% while the summer is down 1.3%.

Arrivals for April were -3.9%, May -0.4%, June -0.8% and July -2.7

Cruise arrivals

Up 10.7% to 205,732

 

Questions which arise are whether the discount airlines have truly had the desired impact in comparison to the unknown amount of subsidizing which may have occurred.

Overall, things appear to have stuck along the earlier predicted trend and it shall be interesting to note the impacts that the full introduction of the US passport requirements in October have on air passengers as we progress into the off-season.

Questions

Are petty remarks about the Opposition Leader characteristic of what we want in the leader of our country?

“I’ll tell you this, when Patrice is finished with Mr. Dunkley in the election, not all the King’s horses and all the King’s men will be able to put Humpty Dunkley together again,” said Premier Brown.

Is this a world leading country or pre-school?  It’s not even funny.  Premier Brown should have taken the hint that he’s not much of a comedian the first time he was boo’d off stage

Stick to solving the real issues of Bermuda, Mr. Premier, and start by paying attention to who is really sitting on the wall ready to fall to pieces:  our youth. 

Dr. Ewart Brown: “When you see what we have planned for healthcare it will bring tears to your eyes. No longer will you have to worry about what will happen to you after you retire at 65. This Government will take care of it.”

Why not actually just announce the plan?  We don’t need to cry further over the pathetic state of our senior care and some are anxious to read through a well thought out plan that clearly addresses a great many issues.

“Visitor satisfaction is up to 95 per cent.”

Last time I checked, 3.5 out of 5 is not 95%. Is it not important to gauge satisfaction by a variety of sources to ensure we get the fullest picture of the state of our tourism industry?

“This is performance, this is not a Government sleeping at the wheel.”

Perhaps not, but it seems allot like trying to navigate without a map.  Where do I go to read up on the long term vision for our future?  How do the many projects and initiatives planned fit into a larger development plan and how do we know we’re on the right path?  Where are the plans for how we address the approximately 3000 people to be added to our population over the next 3 years? 

“It continues to be a puzzle as to why our opponents continue to object to Jumeirah. It is the most coveted hotel brand in the world.”

Who’s objecting to Jumeirah?  By last check, people are objecting to the destruction of some of last real examples of what Bermuda was like before it was trashed by humanity and turned into a concrete jungle, not Jumeriah. 

“These are premium brands and they all want a piece of the action. This means Bermuda has won the respect of the premium brands in tourism,” he said. “Bermuda is earning rave reviews in Wall Street, major players are bullish. That would not happen if they did not think the Bermuda Government was a blue chip Government.

“Strong as our reputation is around the world, I will continue to build the brand.”

Google “Bermuda reputation” for a sobering look at what’s out there.  4 of the top 5 are about the corruption scandal with the 3rd being the Crockwell murder.  The 6th states “Bermuda’s reputation as a safe place for tourists is being eroded by a small number of criminals stealing from visitors on the beach, snatching bags from the baskets on the back of tourist mopeds or actually …”  Is this a reputation to be raved out? 

He added that although Bermuda was enjoying a “boom time” in tourism and construction, crime was casting a shadow on the Island’s success.

Many booms end in busts.  Again, what plans are in place for where all of these people are going to live and come from?  Is all of this construction only going to bring in more foreigners and further stretch our already horribly stretched infrastructure?

“The darkest cloud is crime. The Governor has apologized for this and this was encouraging to hear this coming from the source of control over the Police,” said the Premier, but he made no further comment.

Is it fair to place the blame squarely on the governor?  Is this simply a cheap diversion of responsibility tactic?  Does government not control the purse strings that have been pulled so tight that the police force is vastly under resourced?

Hmm…

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We don’t need another study!

The last thing we need is another study to waste more time and more money.  We need focus on education, positive role models and providing hope.  Many of those in the older generations just don’t get it and the greatest thing that needs to be done is to listen to the youth in order to understand how to address the youth’s problems.  We need to afford every Bermudian the opportunity to study abroad.  We need positive role models and we need to put hope in the youth that they can have a great future.

The Royal Gazette has a number of gems with regards to understanding the crisis of young black males and this isn’t one of them:

37 year old Gladwin Johnson, suggested “I think a lot of them need more structure and a path, maybe they should drop the Bermuda Regiment age from 18 to 16 and make it mandatory.

“Because right now they get a bike at 16 and that’s it, they’re gone. There is no control over them. But if they were in the Regiment it could give them some options and ideas about what to do.”

Absolutely not.  Far too many in the community hold this delusion that the Regiment is a fix-all to our youth’s problems.  In reality, many youth enter the Regiment, struggle the whole way fighting the system and enter having gained little insight into life aside from that the system will always break you.  Regiment does not have the time nor the resources to educate the youth on the reasons why the lessons taught are useful and thus Regiment is viewed with contempt and lacks respect from a great many youth who enter it, myself included.

However, if you listen to the youth, they explain exactly what the problem is and they indirectly describe the solutions that are needed.

17-year-old student Mikkail, said a lot of them felt they had no opportunities or real future.

He said :”What’s the point in staying in school? As a young black guy if I finish school I still don’t have anywhere to go other than to sit on the wall.”

The youth have no vision of what they can attain by working hard.  Paint a picture of what they can achieve through hard work.  Provide real opportunities for housing and a good life in Bermuda.  Provide hope.

24-year-old Omar said many young black men felt there were road blocks preventing them from succeeding.

“We hear that the education system is a mess,” he said. “And we’re expected to go on to Bermuda College, why bother?

BINGO!  Our youth need opportunity and exposure to the world.  We need to be selling further education abroad not simply for the future in it but some of the really great experiences one walks away with.  Namely parties and women.  Generally the youth haven’t lived long enough to understand why they should care so much about their future, they need to live to understand why.  Persuade them by giving them the opportunities to live and better their future.  We do not need another study, what we need is to ensure every single young Bermudian is provided the opportunity to pursue education abroad.

“And there is all this money in Bermuda but we aren’t getting it. So we go to construction sites but there wasn’t any technical training at schools so we didn’t do it.

“And you see people from away with the training being paid twice what you are. It’s just real frustrating and it doesn’t look like it’s changing.”

Is there an echo in here?

Mr. W, 61, echoed Omar’s comments and said more technical education was needed in the public schools.

“We need to find a way to engage them, and we need more technical options in the schools. I read that there will be 3,000 more jobs in the next three years and a lot of them will be for construction. We need to engage the young men and show them how to get involved. ”

Forget Regiment, increase technical training to provide real opportunities for those who want to take hold of them.

36-year-old Mistry said “They don’t have many role models on this Island, and the people they are holding as role models are not going down the right path.

Start a campaign that promotes successful Bermudians.  Focus on providing real positive role models.  Profile the lives of successful Bermudians tell their stories and spread their message throughout the island.  Provide hope that you actually can achieve things if you work hard.  Put posters on benches and in bus shelters, on walls and in places where they’re visible.  Spread the message that there are successful Bermudians, especially black Bermudian males, who have made their dreams come true.  Whether it’s a great family, a high profile career, having the boat they always dreamed of, anything and everything that is positive that youth can look at and say “I could see myself being that guy”.  Role models!

Mistry continues: “They seem to have this glorified outlook on life that they can get money without getting an education, but they need to realize that they need to go down traditional paths.”

That’s because the only role models many youth see are from the gangsta lifestyle and they think, “maybe if I deal drugs, act tough, be violent and live the life of a gangsta one day I’ll be rich and have everything.”  It’s a delusion because 99.9% of people who attempt to make it in such a lifestyle don’t.  The very simple reason why women don’t share the same problem is because there are far less women who serve up that persona that being a gangsta is the way to be.

Meanwhile lawyer Charles Richardson, who famously rehabilitated himself after being jailed for a nightclub shooting, said he hoped this study would actually be completed.

This is exactly who I’m talking about.  Profile him and other people who have turned their lives around.  Profile those who stayed the course.  Target the youth by providing real world role models that they can relate to from every situation and spread the message like a virus.

Earlier in the week Dr. Brown said:

“If this one is going to be completed then I think it’s a good idea to do it,” he said. “There is a problem and this study is long overdue.

We don’t need another study!  It will do little more than waste more time, more money and pay little more than lip service to the real issues.  Listen to the youth.  Provide real opportunities for all Bermudians to study abroad, start a campaign of promoting positive role models and provide hope to the youth that a great future is within their grasp.

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Quick mention on jobs.

1000 jobs added a year?  That’s the claim of a new report that will apparently be released tomorrow.  Of particular concern are mentions in the article such as:

In 2006, 75 percent of new jobs were filled by non-Bermudians and that trend looks likely to continue.

553 according the the job market report.

Surprisingly it is not international business that is creating the largest portion of the new jobs, but the booming construction industry.

How many more are to come with all the hotel projects in scope?  Too many projects at once causes a shortage which means more workers and potentially higher costs if you cannot attract and house them easily.

However, perhaps we can take comfort that everything will be balanced out by the exodus of mid level workers, though those Bermudians who work in the mid level positions may need to begin fearing that they’ll lose their jobs.

We seriously need to consider slowing down our development for we are seriously overheating our economy.  A soft close and other tactics to evaluate and work with our overall industry.  Things are moving much too quickly and we are overstretching the abilities of our infrastructure to keep up.

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Equipping our youth with tools for success

If Bermudians are to survive in the digital age it is imperative that we make the early jump to equip every child in school with a laptop.  Such a trend is increasingly happening around the world as countries are discovering the need to expose their youth to the benefits of technology so they can ensure no child is left behind in tomorrow’s future.  We should be looking to take the best ideas from around the world and utilizing our wealth to properly invest in our youth to provide tangible opportunity for the future and the best education system possible.

CNN has an interesting article on how the government minister for technology in Macedonia, one of Europe’s poorest countries, has decided to improve the country’s educational system by outfitting schools with a slew of new computers using thin-client technology.

What is particularly fascinating about the article is the discussion of whether Macedonia should be investing in the One Laptop Per Child initiative instead:

Walter Bender, One Laptop Per Child’s director of software and content, derides the traditional model, in which children get to use PCs only in computer labs for a few hours a day, as “antiquated” and “ineffectual.”

“It’s such a backward way of actually educating people in computing,” Bender said. “It’s better than nothing, but it’s not going to touch the families, it’s not going to be used as engine for entrepreneurship, creativity, exploration. … Maybe it’s economical from the dollars and cents perspective, but not from the learning perspective.”

Ivo Ivanovski, Macedonia’s minister of information society, defends his decision to equip schools with thin-client computers as the One Laptop Per Child route would be unrealistic for a country where educational resources are stretched so thin that half the children attend school in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.  He contends that his plan will better equip all of Macedonia’s 420,000 students even with their limited resources.

However, Bermuda is not limited like Macedonia.  Indeed, being one of the richest countries in the world we are far from it.  With our own situation of a poorly performing education system and questions arising of how to revolutionize it, should we be leaving ourselves to be left behind when third world nations around the world are preparing to equip every student with a laptop?

Bermuda could be in the position to lead the way if we were to embrace truly progressive forward thinking and begin strategizing how we could equip our own students with the tools for success.  Ideally, we could be taking the best of both worlds by equipping our students with laptops that act as thin-clients supported by a high speed wireless network with benefits such as being able to host centrally managed virtual machines for youth to connect in to which would remove a great many of the maintenance hurdles while still affording youth the abilities to explore, create and entrepreneur their way into a digital future.

Bermudians need to encourage and embrace a future that will provide the best possible opportunities for our youth.  We need to take heed of the changes happening worldwide and rather than being left behind, take the lead by being one of the first to empower our youth.  We should be taking the best ideas from around the world and investing in the best possible education system to provide the most opportunity we can manage.  Every Bermudian child should be equipped with a laptop.

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First past the post?

What are the benefits and drawbacks of a first-past-the-post style democracy like what we have today?

In an earlier post I brought some attention to the upcoming decision of whether to change parliamentary system of Ontario, Canada from a first-past-the-post system to that of a “mixed member proportional” system.  This consideration raises some questions of why the change and is the first-past-the-post system effective?  To answer this question, lets turn to a BBC News article evaluating the UK’s own first-past-the-post system from which Bermuda’s is modeled. 

 

What’s good about the first past the post system?

Factors in favour of the first past the post system include:

Simplicity: Voters have a simple task – mark a cross in a single box which means less confusion over other systems.

Speed:  The result in each constituency – and therefore the national result – is known quickly.

Clear link between representatives and candidates:  Each MP represents a precise geographical area and thus constituents easily know who represents them.

Decisive results:  First past the post elections usually – though not always – produce clear majorities for one party or another.  This means few coalitions, which can give minority parties excessive influence compared with their support.

What’s not so good?

No electoral system is perfect and those opposed to first past the post point out the following weaknesses:

Second-place blues:  Parties which come second or third consistently tend to win large numbers of votes but few seats, meaning smaller parties are stifled and under-represented.

No government mandate: It is possible for a party to win most seats but lose the popular vote.

Wasted votes & Safe seats:  Because of their electoral make-up, some seats are so “safe” for one party that supporters of any other group have only a meaningless vote.

Forgotten Constituencies:  Constituencies who elect a candidate that is not a member of the winning party are far more likely to be neglected given that their representatives have little power and limited resources.

 

Sources:

First past the post
BBC NEWS
Sourced: Sept 11th, 2007 @ 1pm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/vote2001/hi/english/voting_system/newsid_1173000/1173697.stm

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A run on the bank

art.rock.afp.gi.jpgThis can’t be a good sign for the overall markets.  CNN reports that savers at Northern Rock, one of the UK’s top five lending banks, have lined up for two days thus far attempting to empty their accounts after the Bank of England bailed them out due to issues with the credit crunch.

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Perks of the Regiment

Those who hold the belief that the regiment is all bad would be mistaken.  While it does have it’s quirks, it also has it’s perks, namely providing much needed opportunities for worldly travel to young Bermudians who might otherwise never have the opportunity.

During last night’s drill night, it was announced that there is the opportunity for Regimental soldiers to sign up for extra training.  While typically any sort of opportunities for ‘extra duties’ would sent conscripts running for the hills, this opportunity happens to include the ability to spend 6 weeks in Morocco with 4 weeks of training and 2 weeks of free time with pay at a rate of $1000 a week. 

These are exactly the kinds of opportunities that are things you could look forward to as a member of the regiment and might just be enough to encourage you to show up prepared when you’re supposed to and not be too much trouble.  While personally I am not in the position to take leave from my job for such an extended period, if I were, it’d definately be a trip I’d be keen on even despite the 4 weeks of training.  Africa is an incredible, eye-opening place to see that many young Bermudians should have the opportunity to be exposed to and I encourage those in the position to go to give it much consideration.  I highly doubt you’d regret it.

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In the army now

Sometimes people ask me what it is like to be in Regiment.  Last thursday’s return from summer break serves as a perfect example.  We’re required to turn up, marched around and inspected as per usual.  Then we’re instructed to go to assigned barracks to sit on the floor and examine two sheets of paper. 

One of the sheets is a printout of our details that we are to confirm if correct and if not, make the necessary corrections.  The other is a list of the different companies or specializations you can choose within your service, of which your choice likely won’t matter as Regiment will place you where they see fit anyway.  You pass on the second sheet to the next person as there isn’t the budget to photocopy the sheet and we won’t be making the actual decision for 2 months anyway.

This of course is followed up by about an hour and a half of sitting on the floor, which we’ve adequately deemed ‘wait training’, the most frequent Regimental training exercise.  Then we’re hearded out to stand on ‘the square’ for a while and do some more waiting before being marched around, barked at because not everybody turned up which is somehow half our fault and then dismissed to go home.

Ah the regiment.  Can you see why people are so fond of it?   One can only wonder what tonight’s experience shall entail.

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Constituency #3… Continued

A link to the following has been sent to PLP Candidate for Constituency #3, Lovitta Foggo

If there are reasons why many St. David’s islanders likely won’t vote for the PLP, one would have to be be the abysmal bus service, another would be the fact that after nine years the simple things still haven’t been taken care of.

Leaving work not long after 6, I headed to the bus terminal.  A route #10 bus headed to St. Georges came 5 minutes after I arrived at the terminal.  While all the seats filled, there were only 2 people left standing and it gave me the chance to read some of my latest book on the ride home.  Arriving at the number one gate, however, has proven exactly why the PLP has alot of work still ahead of them.

The play by play:

7:05pm Arrived at the number one gate, expecting a short wait to ride into St. David’s

  • Two buses marked “training” pass
  • Two buses to Hamilton pass
  • One bus from Hamilton to St. Georges passes

7:24pm and still no buses to St. David’s.   It’s at this moment I decide I’m going to record this endeavor.

7:26pm another bus to Hamilton from St. Georges.

7:28pm a bus headed out of St. David’s to St. Georges passes, near empty 

7:34pm a route 11 bus from Hamilton to St. Georges passes

Beginning to get impatient, I start examining my surroundings.

Bench1

  • One of the benches is broken and in horrible disrepair

Bench2

  • The board up on the wall is blank with no schedule or map posted to inform

Sign1

Sign3

7:38pm A minibus stops to pick up people who walked over to the road.  I ask another individual what it takes to ride it and he informs me that it’s $4 to ride the minibus into St. David’s on top of the fee you pay to ride the public bus.  Ridiculous

7:39pm Route 11 to Hamilton from St. Georges passes

7:43pm Another training bus passes

7:46pm Training bus again!  And it’s driving in to St. David’s.

7:48pm The sun has set and streetlight in front of the bus stop turns off. 

Lamp2

I quickly realize it’s one that’ll be annoyingly going on and off every couple minutes for the rest of the time I’m there.

Lamp4

7:49pm Route 10 to St. Georges passes

7:58pm a Hamilton bound bus passes

8:00pm, a St. David’s bound number 6 finally arrives.

8:01pm, I quickly realize that the bus isn’t going down St. David’s road, where I live closest and is instead headed down Southside

8:05pm, I hit the next stop button and disembark near Southside theater

8:08pm I’ve walked up behind the laundromat and thankfully see that the hole in the derelict fence is still there, which I pass through to get to St. David’s road.

Fence

8:18pm, I arrive home.

8:19pm  The sheer comedic irony of life rears it’s head as I realize that Constituency #3 (St. David’s) candidate Lovita Foggo stopped and left a pamphlet by while I was on my epic journey home.  One of her promises?  Later night bus service but no mention of these issues.

If Ms. Foggo would like to earn the support of St. David’s islanders for the coming election, there are things she could do.

  1. Get a bus schedule and map put up in the bus stop
  2. Get the streetlight outside the bus-stop fixed
  3. Get the bench fixed or replaced
  4. Get the derelict fence removed or replaced with a proper gate or opening that allows people to walk through to the laundromat
  5. Get St. David’s bus schedule changed so that there are 2 direct evening routes from Hamilton to St. David’s to match the two direct morning routes.

Continue reading

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