Tourism Board strangles local tourism businesses

The Bermuda Tourism board is overfunded and as a result strangles local business.  This isn’t the Tourism Board’s fault nor is it the governments.  It comes down to a misunderstanding of what happens when you introduce heavy government subsidies.  Those subsidies make it near impossible for private businesses to compete and in the end we effectively waste tax dollars on mass inefficiencies as private enterprises struggle to survive against overfunded government quangos.

Here’s the Tourism Board’s budget

$25 million is a massive amount of money.  Breakdowns of how that money is spent seem to be unavailable so we’ll just have to look at what is produced.

One of the big investments made with this money is to produce content.  The Tourism Board runs and as a result, has a large dedicated staff producing feature articles, content, media campaigns, videos, promoting and marketing it, you name it.  In the well intentioned context of promoting Bermuda this makes a lot of sense.  However few take a moment to consider the impact this has on private enterprise and how it damages our overall brand and product.

There are a variety of local media outlets that also produce this sort of content.  They produce destination guides, magazines, websites, etc.  The big difference between local outlets and the Tourism Board is that local outlets rely on strategic partnerships, advertising, and product sales to fund their content generation while the Tourism Board gets a hefty handout from government.  How are private enterprises supposed to be able to compete?  They can’t and most are at risk of shutting down.  Worse, our branding and image ends up being very inconsistent.

The Tourism Board was supposed to be an effort to privatize the Tourism Authority and move it towards being self reliant.  Establishing the Tourism Board was a welcome step, but not nearly big enough.  Rather than hiring on a whole raft of staff and doing everything itself the Tourism Board should be partnering with existing local entities to subcontract content generation and other work which helps prop up struggling private entities rather than pushing them down with subsidized competition.

The Tourism Board shouldn’t be in the business of creating content.  It should be buying and featuring content created by local businesses.  Doing otherwise is not only vastly inefficient, it tarnishes our brand, makes it harder for local business to compete and worst of all, achieves the very opposite of the aims it sets out to: improve Bermuda Tourism and help Bermuda get ahead.