According to the latest statistics from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Bermuda tourism isn’t doing so well when compared against other competing islands. The question that arises from such a realization is whether the “feel the love” and “pop and sizzle” campaigns really have had much of an effect and whether instead, tourism is pretty heavily tied to international business.
In the recent quarterly update from the Department of Tourism it was suggested that the downturn in tourism is due to the economic slowdown in the United States and rising fuel costs.
Premier Dr. Ewart F. Brown, Minister of Tourism and Transport, said: “The first quarter visitor statistics reveal Bermuda is not immune to the economic slowdown in the United States.”
Fair enough. It should come as little surprise to anyone that the economic downturn in the US and skyrocketing fuel costs would have an impact on local tourism.
As is the case in other local travel sectors around the globe, there is an indication that the US economic slowdown is affecting travel patterns. In addition, factors such as the high cost of fuel have also had an impact on visitor arrivals.
Hold on just a second. “As is the case for other local travel sectors around the globe”? Let’s back up and examine this further by charting out the CTO’s latest statistics.
Above is a chart of all of the countries who had valid data for Jan-Mar ’08 submitted to the CTO. Note how of 21 destinations listed, only 6 showed negative growth in tourism. Of which, note how Bermuda performed 3rd worst. Does that sound to you like generally the Caribbean has been impacted by the downturn and rising fuel costs, at least in the first quarter?
To dig a little deeper as to why Bermuda is special, lets go back to the tourism quarterly update.
The economic slide had a trickle down effect on convention travel. Convention moved from 3,863 in 2007 down to 2,261 in 2008. However 2007 was an extremely high performance year for conventions with a 40.8% increase over 2006 due largely to business at the Fairmont Hotels. The 2006 figure was 2,744, more inline with this year’s first quarter performance in convention travel.
Comparing last years statistics to this years suggests that there were nearly 4100 fewer visitors and that the drop in convention travel accounted for nearly 40% of the overall drop in visitors. This also suggests that nearly 2.5% of the overall increase in visitors for Jan-Mar last year were due to convention travel.
This raises a number of questions. Namely if 2007 was heralded as a renaissance of tourism and yet a large portion of the increase was due to convention travel, what really was the impact of the various “feel the love” campaigns, the so called “faith based tourism” events and other tourism initiatives? Does the increased affect of the downturn of Bermuda tourism but not so much elsewhere with regards to the downturn in the US market not also raise questions of how much of our ‘tourism’ is actually based on and reliant upon business travelers?