BermudaTourism.com

Last night we covered the very disappointing tourism arrival numbers, today we get wind of the promising results of the Bermuda Tourism website, which is encouraging.

Statistics released for the website suggest an 81% year on year increase in visitors for the second quarter which hopefully is an indication of an improving recognition of Bermuda abroad.   The suggested page view total of 2.7 million for 301,000 visits is a good sign as this indicates an average of about 9 pages viewed per visitor which is quite a good rating for any website.  Of note however is that it is preferable if we could be provided statistics of how many of those visits and page views were from Bermudian IP addresses and how many were from foreign sources.  This should not be a difficult nor unreasonable statistic to attain and if the Bermuda Tourism website has truly been a success this should be a statistic they happily provide.

Quoted in the article is the “bounce rate” of the website which had a decline of 48.5%, though the actual rate was unfortunately not provided and we can hope it will be.  For the uninitiated the bounce rate refers to how many people only visited a single page before leaving the site.  The bounce rate of a site is usually used to measure the old marketing principle that it takes less than 3 seconds for someone to decide whether they’re interested in learning more and thus is a good indication of whether you’re adequately capturing your audience.

The new look of the site is actually quite appealing though it is hard not to frown at the load time for the flash animation.  While it is quite good in comparison to most sites this writer has always believed that the core of a website is getting people the information they want as fast as possible with the least possible amount of effort.  Flash is usually gimmicky and turns off those who come looking for answers, not gimmicks.  Overall though the load time is quick enough that the flash load time isn’t very noticeable which is a positive if we’re going to have flash.

The site succeeds in having a clean and elegant look that doesn’t overload the user with too much information or leave the page looking empty.  The photos chosen are quite good and very fitting for both the site and Bermuda.  The layout of the site is well done and the navigation is good, though it is a bit confusing when you click on headers like ‘Travel’ under the meetings section and aren’t taken anywhere.  Despite there being a dropdown the color change of the heading suggests it is meant to take you somewhere and yet it confusingly refreshes to the same page.  The spacing of some informational items seem a bit off, though nothing really worth fretting over.  Overall the information provided on the site seems quite good and comprehensive which is definitely what we’re aiming for.  Finally, bonus points are necessary for having contact details on every page, this is something that should be stressed for every website as no one should have to struggle to figure out how to get in touch with someone quickly.

While we may be very disappointed with the present tourism numbers we can hold out some hope that the tide may be turning and that the Tourism Department may well have charted a course in the right direction for the future.  Their focus on our core markets and recent advertising schemes are much more promising than some of those that have been undertaken in the past and we can hold out hope that things will continue to improve.  Hopefully the new website is just one small step in a large scope of positive things to come, for certainly Bermuda needs it.

Misled with tourism statistics?

cartoon-spin-bull-vs-bear

Two great quotes and a great cartoon found by The Big Picture:

“The spring of 1930 marks the end of a period of grave concern…American business is steadily coming back to a normal level of prosperity.”
– Julius Barnes, head of Hoover’s National Business Survey Conference, March 16, 1930

“While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed through the worst — and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There has been no significant bank or industrial failure. That danger, too, is safely behind us.”
– Herbert Hoover, May 1, 1930

There are many market cheerleaders out there spinning recent poor economic data as less bad and the markets have happily followed along.  Hey, the economy is no longer crashing at a startling pace, that must be a sign of a recovery right?  We’ll certainly see…

In a breaking news piece on The Royal Gazette Premier Brown is quoted as suggesting that less bad tourism numbers are a good sign.

“Already, in just the first six months of 2009, we have seen a slowdown to the slowdown,” Dr. Brown said. “Visitor arrivals have improved pretty convincingly between the first quarter and the second quarter of this year. Visitor numbers were down 27.84 percent in the first quarter, but after the second quarter the 2009 year-to-date figure has improved to an 11.28 percent decrease when compared to the year prior.

“That is clearly a trend in the right direction. This trend is expected to improve even further in the third quarter.”

Well sure, it is really nice to say the 2009 Q2 figure has improved over the Q1 numbers while conveniently not mentioning that last year we also just happened to witness a near 12% drop in Q2 arrivals.  A question that arises is how spending performed as the hugely discounted promotions hotels have been offering to attract tourists likely boosted numbers while cut spending.  To be fair we should also be examining year over year performance for the last few years as opposed to just last year.

Let us put things into context.  Let’s take the very latest Caribbean Tourism Statistics (found via google as they’re not officially posted on their site yet) and normalize the gain and loss percentages of each country to 2003 levels (2003 = 100) so we can get an idea of how well we’ve performed.  For added interest we’ll even throw in Antigua & Barbuda statistics as they’ve already reported their full Q2 numbers.

image

Notice how Bermuda has vastly underperformed the average Caribbean destination?  Oh, but don’t worry about that, we’ve improved upon the Q1 decline, that must be a sign of a recovery, right? 

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.

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.

image

 

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.

image

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

image

New Zealand Tourism jumps on the bandwagon

Another example of successful tourism campaigns utilizing user driven content via YouTube is the one New Zealand Tourism put on. 

via stuff.co.nz

Tourism New Zealand has done a $US320,000 ($NZ450,000) deal to promote its new campaign over popular internet site YouTube.

Tourism NZ will take over the paid video space on the YouTube homepage for 24 hours, starting at 4pm on September 18.

It would use the homepage space to show its new 100% Pure New Zealand commercial.

The 24 hour contract will be followed by three months of a New Zealand branded channel.

via the Otago Daily Times

As the tourism industry braces for a tough few months, a New Zealand marketing campaign on social networking sites has chalked up its 100,000th viewing on YouTube.

The video "raves" are collected from international visitors at a mobile recording studio, edited and posted on the networking sites by Tourism New Zealand (TNZ).

The campaign was chosen by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper as one of "10 most ingenious travel offers" the travel industry has come up with to get bookings.

South Africa Tourism innovates

South Africa is truly living the ‘gold standard’ by winning awards with their tourism campaigns.  Not long ago South Africa Tourism won the Global Gold Award in the International Awards for Innovation in Media through their “My South Africa” campaign.  South Africa serves as another tourism destination thinking outside the box when it comes to marketing.  Again, why can’t we do that?

via sagoodnews.co.za

The campaign was launched in June 2008 with the aim of raising the profile of South Africa among CNN’s elite audience of globe trotters. The multimedia campaign is CNN’s first ever user-generated content driven advertising solution.

‘My South Africa’ encourages CNN viewers worldwide to upload compelling photographs, moving images and stories that encapsulate their experiences of South Africa, via the ‘My South Africa’ website.

By submitting you get the chance to win an all expenses trip for 2 to South Africa.  You can check out the site at www.mysouthafrica.tv

Not limiting themselves to just CNN, South Africa Tourism has launched a similar campaign on YouTube as well which inspired people to submit their impressions of South Africa for a chance to win a trip.

Now that’s an example of thinking outside the box with lower cost ideas that create tremendous buzz for their money.  What are we doing?  Oh right.

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.

The Louis Vuitton of tourism

It’s no secret that Bermudians love Louis Vuitton.  Pay 10 times the price for a product of the same quality simply because of it’s name and recognized brand.  Somehow buying someone else’s name makes your own image seem more reputable.  As my father always tells me, “Son, you get what you pay for” and you can’t argue with the fact that with Louis Vuitton what you’re paying for is branding and exclusivity.

Compare Louis Vuitton’s approach to the one we use for Bermuda tourism.  We’re pandering to the lowest denominator in order to tout the highest “arrival” numbers while not paying attention to what really matters: $$$.  Cruise ships and discount tourists are our business as we think we can compete with the rest of the Caribbean in this market.  It’s saddening.  Ask most Americans what they think of Bermuda and their likely response is “who?  Oh, you mean one of those Caribbean islands?”, though we’re not even in the Caribbean.  To the outside world and those who haven’t witnessed the beauty of our tranquil waters and uniqueness of our architecture and culture, Bermuda is just another island.

The Bermuda I dream of is one that is like the Louis Vuitton of tourism.  I dream of Bermuda being a name so reputable and exclusive that when someone says they went to Bermuda on vacation, jaws drop open in disbelief and envy.  Bermuda should be prestigious, exclusive and the place where everyone wishes they could be and are willing to pay a premium to say they were here.

As I’ve said before, cruise ships are not the answer.  Cruise ships are like Louis Vuitton introducing a wal-mart line of products.  If Louis Vuitton carried a wal-mart line that anyone could buy, it would kill the exclusivity of the brand.  Cruise ships make Bermuda accessible to the “wal-mart” of tourists.   There is of course nothing wrong with the “wal-mart” class of tourists, only that they’re further down the long tail.  Making money on the “wal-mart” class requires targeting large volumes for little profits.  This model works perfectly in large Caribbean destinations but on our tiny little island, we’re easily strained.

Today most hotels are packed with foreign workers.  Why?  Because the profits are so slim that you can’t pay people very well and thus the demands of the jobs are not attractive for Bermudians.  Our cost of living is already high enough.  If we were the Louis Vuitton of tourism, the exclusivity and quality of product offered would allow us to charge 10 times the price of other accessible destinations of similar quality.  Being the Louis Vuitton of tourism means we can greatly increase our profit margins while decreasing the overall numbers of tourists.  If our profit margins were larger, we could pay our people more.  If we attracted high rollers, it would be lucrative to work in the tourism industry rather than a struggle.  Bermudians would have options other than international business again.

The case against cruise

Some people may see the loss of cruise ships in Hamilton next year as a bad thing.  Personally, I think it’s great.  I believe cruise isn’t worth the time or money we spend on it.

Courtesy of data compiled from the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Quarterly Bulletins of Statistics and yearly Bermuda Digest’s of Statistics, here is a breakdown to support my case.

 

Here is a chart of Air vs. Cruise arrivals.   What you’ll note is that while overall arrivals are up considerably since 1998, they are largely comprised of a heavy increase in cruise visitors over air visitors.  Cruise visitors attributing significantly more than they did in 1998 while air visitors still lagging 1998 numbers.

 

Here is a chart of average visitor expenditure.  What you’ll note is that while the total average expenditure for both cruise and air visitors combined hovers around $1400, air visitors heavily outperform cruise by about 6 to 1.

 

Each air visitor contributes 6 times as much to the local economy as each cruise visitor which is demonstrated by the next chart.  Note how most of the increase in expenditure came from air visitors and not cruise.

 

Despite total arrivals being way up according to the first chart, some 75,000 more visitors in 2006 than there were in 1998, we actually earned $30 million less.

Does this suggest that we should be focusing all of our energy on maximizing the expenditure of air visitors?  Perhaps by improving the quality of their stay we could do without cruise visitors entirely?   Here’s some food for thought.  Look at the total expenditure graph for 2006 and note how the air expenditure for 2006 matches the total expenditure for 2005.  That means if we’d had no cruise visitors in 2006 we still would have made just as much money as in 2005.

Less cruise means less people on our roads, our beaches, less garbage, less power consumed, and more for us and our air based tourists.  Should we be focusing 100% of our energy on ensuring a quality and prestigious vacation for air visitors in order to improve Bermuda tourism and forget about cruise all together?