Back to what we’re good at

It is no secret that Bermuda is well known as being the destination for people living in their golden years.  The problem is that we keep making half assed attempts at trying to be something we're not when we really should be getting back to basics by focusing on our core market and the quality of our product.

With that in mind I had an idea for a tv ad that follows more along the lines of the audience we'd actually be targeting.

Imagine a setting of 3 or 4 elderly couples sitting around at brunch.  While lifting a tea glass to her lips one of the elderly ladies pauses to remark to the others "you know, next month it'll have been 40 years that we've all known each other".  One of the gentlemen pipes in "40 years?  Has it really been that long? [pause]  Perhaps we should do something to celebrate?".  Another one pipes in "hmm, that sounds like a good idea, should we relive on of the places of our heyday?  [pause] We could go back to Ibiza"

[Cut scene to Ibiza night club with the couples standing in middle of a dancefloor near a stage surrounded by heavily partying youth]

One of the gentlemen turns to the other yelling "I can't hear anything!".  The other responds yelling "What did you say?"  The camera cuts to the stage where a couple buckets of water are thrown on young women on the stage in what could be a wet t-shirt contest, subsequently causing the couples to be splashed by the spray, the men rather shockingly taking it all in.

[quickly cutting back to the brunch to focus on one of the ladies who acts like she's just had a flashback and shivers at the thought while showing a slight expression of disgust on her face]  "No, I don't think ibiza is the right place" she remarks.  "We could try skydiving again" she suggests.

[Cut to the shot of one of the gentlemen freefalling attached to an instructor, terrified, screaming his head off as he falls.  Quickly cut back to that gentleman at the brunch]  "No", he remarks almost too quickly, "we've already done that and it's likely be boring the second time".   "Sure … boring, that's it" taunts one of the other gentlemen.

Finally, one of the ladies who hadn't yet spoken says "How about we try somewhere new like Bermuda?"

[Show the group contemplating it for a moment]

[cut to scenes of them enjoying Bermuda.

Eg, enjoying themselves riding around on rental bikes,  shots of the gentlemen having a great time golfing, shots of the women being pampered in spas, shots of them relaxing at the beach, shots of them scuba diving wrecks, various stills as if they're vacation photos of them at various landmarks and shots of them enjoying wine cruising on a catamaran with the sunset in the background]

Cut to a Bermuda logo and a Bermudian gentlemen standing next to it saying "Bermuda…  your undiscovered paradise…  we've been waiting for you"
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Death by volume

Chatting with a tour operator friend reveals hearsay evidence of what we’ve
long suspected and will likely be confirmed by statistics (if they’re released)
that volume tourism means more is less.  Our friend tells us that since the new
mega ships can cut costs based on volume, cruises have become more accessible
for lower classes of tourists.  While indeed everyone deserves a vacation it
sounds like a far cry from the type of tourists we used to cater to and a lot
less likely that they’ve got the disposable income to blow to sustain our
own.

The word on the ground suggests that tourists who hunt for the cheapest
vacation are not proving to be big spenders when it comes to leaving the ship.
Dockyard restaurants are described as being as busy for lunch as dinner on a
Friday or Saturday night.  Not packed, but reasonably filled.  That may seem
reasonable until you realize that two cruise ships means and extra 6000 people
and they usually aren’t here on the weekends.

As we’ve
covered before
, while government may get it’s head tax to slowly pay off the
many millions it’s invested in the dockyard piers, are
Bermudians really better off?  More volume
means a higher expectation for price competition.  More price competition means
lower profits for higher people served.  Lower profits for higher people served
means lower wages and more stress.  Higher people served means higher
frustration and lower quality of service.  Lower wages means more low skilled
expats filling jobs Bermudians could have been filling.  More low skilled expats
means more packing into homes saving every penny so they can live the good life
when they return to their own home countries.  It seems everyone is winning,
except Bermudians.

Let’s remember, cruise ship profits are funneled off island.  That means all
jobs on the cruise ships are foreign as are most earnings.  We collect no taxes
from those workers.  All spending on accommodation, food and entertainment (even casinos) on
those cruise ships all goes to the cruise ship companies.  Taking a cursory view
here, for all the money we’ve blown on the new piers and all the hassle we’re
going through over the “’we’re risking destroying tourism if we don’t approve
casinos on cruise ships’” we well could have skipped the middle man, spent the
pier money on purchasing and outfitting our own luxury cruise ship and had
all spending go to Bermudians and Bermudian businesses.  Just a thought.

Recession relief

Bermudian families may get hit with a stroke of luck as we hit Bermuda’s worst time of year for power consumption at what may prove to be the best time to be hitting it.

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Those who recall the last time we looked at the correlation between oil prices and local fuel and power inflation may recognize the similarities with the above chart.  Again, we’re comparing the Fuel and power inflation portion of the Consumer Price Index at a benchmark of approximately 100 for April 2006 (still can’t get that number to match exactly, I get 100.4) with the WTI – Cushing, Oklahoma spot price per barrel of oil.

As we noted last time, due to shipping duration Bermuda actually has to purchase it’s oil/fuel more than 2 months before it actually begins being consumed here.  As the Bermuda Sun suggests:

"Experts say that even higher prices are on the way – there is a two-month lag effect before the most recent jump in world oil prices impacts on the island."

Those high prices have now taken their toll as they peaked and fell.  So let’s again adjust the phase of oil prices by 2 months later to get an idea of what we can expect in the coming months.

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So here we have a depiction of oil prices delayed by two months.  What is interesting to note is the prolonged top of local fuel and power inflation and the delay in the impact of dropping oil prices.  This certainly raises many questions, though they will have to wait for another article and perhaps some investigation into potential causes.

Of note, should fuel and power inflation follow the trend that has occurred we should hopefully be looking at a summer of gradually lower fuel prices, meaning lower electricity bills corresponding with the exact time of year that people tend to consume the most.  This is good news for those hit hardest by the most recent recession so let’s hope the trend carries through.

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Tourism: Charting our performance

Despite the fact that no actual monthly tourism numbers for the first quarter were published nor submitted to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, through some extrapolation we can get an estimate of how we’ve performed in comparison to the Caribbean in terms of air arrival numbers.

Let’s take January to begin with.  We can use 2003 as a benchmark and see how each year performed by comparison in terms of % difference.  Then we can average the performance of destinations in the Caribbean who reported in to the Caribbean Tourism Organization to get a sense of how we did in comparison.

So here’s January’s performance from 2003-2009.  What you’ll note is that we vastly outperformed the average Caribbean destination in 2007, but in 2004 and 2009 not only did we underperform but we also declined in visitor numbers when compared to 2003.

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Now let’s take a look at February’s performance in which case this time we did not outperform in any year and continued to not only underperform against the average Caribbean Destination but we also underperformed against 2003 arrivals.

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Finally, let’s look at March.  Again, we fared overall worse than average and underperformed quite badly when compared to our own 2003 arrivals.

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Seeking profound change

John Barritt was recently quoted in The Royal Gazette condemning the suggestion that the UBP should rename itself.  

"A rose is a rose by any other name. Something more profound than that is required."

Mr. Barritt is absolutely correct.  However, peering through rose colored glasses could detract oneself from distinguishing between a rose in bloom and one which has wilted.  As Mr. Barritt suggests, the UBP needs profound change and a new name won't do it.  Members need to either walk away from the party and go independent or the UBP needs to start being the change it says it would bring.

When it comes to the "do as I say and not as I do" mentality it is hard to differentiate the UBP from the PLP.  The PLP have been known to skirt laws, policies and procedures while expecting the people to have respect for them.  The UBP subsequently condemns such actions and suggests that government should embody 'good governance' and transparency when it itself doesn't follow such principles.  While the UBP may claim 'we'll earn your trust', we shouldn't have to wait until after their elected to start trusting them for  maintaining a shroud of secrecy only works against its development. 

If the UBP play the way they practice then the way they run their party is a good benchmark for how they'd run government. Thus despite many promises to the contrary, people still believe things likely wouldn't change if they were elected.  If the UBP hopes to gain any form of traction a real step forward would be to first change in themselves what they would like to see changed in government.  This means reversing the culture of secrecy within the party and making as much of it as transparent as possible. 

Why? Let us use the changes we would like to see in parliament as an example.  At present there is no advance schedule, little room for public consultation, no hansard minutes and no publishing of voting results.  All of these are things the UBP would likely claim they would change if elected and yet none of these things are reflected in the way the party is run.  

Take caucus meetings as an example.  It is a rather secretive event.  Now certainly there are portions that are necessarily secretive but then there is likely also a great deal which is not.  Thus, why not bring transparency to everything that does not specifically need to be kept secret?  The UBP could publish an advance schedule including descriptions of topics to be discussed.  They could open themselves to public feedback on those topics ahead of time.  They could record and publish hansard minutes and finally publish voting records.  Beyond this they could do the same with other meetings including trying to document what they are able to of parliamentary sessions.

You might ask if the process of reaching consensus is made public, would this tarnish their ability to maintain a unified front?  In order to combat this assertion let us take a look at when parliament works best, which is when people vote on conscience.  When votes reach a consensus everyone falls behind that consensus and government resolves to pursue the result.  People debate, discuss and finally agree on a way forward.  Should this parliamentary process be made public?  If so, why is transparency in parliament any different from transparency in a party caucus?  Why is it not possible to disagree, debate, come to a consensus and finally unify behind the decision, all in the public eye?

Bringing transparency to the party would reap rewards greater than just improved trust.  The party can demonstrate what government would be like if it was in charge.  It could bring greater visibility to the less outspoken and less publicized members allowing for greater promotion of their individual candidates.  It could enable them to garner more support by welcoming feedback and public input.  It would encourage people to feel like they could have a greater impact on decisions and give the party a more participatory feel.  Subsequently the party could look to other initiatives it hopes to bring forth should it be elected and move for implementing them today. 

Let us take a moment to call a spade a spade and realise that sometimes roses need to be replanted in order to flourish.  Upturning the roots of the party would reflect a profound change that could set the UBP on a new course.  It would finally be able to demonstrate a real commitment to the democratic change that so many know we need.  It would give the party new found life and potentially entice greater support, thus enabling the party to rejuvenate itself more empowered to better serve the public, whether as opposition or incumbent.

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