PHOTO: Bermuda posted double-digit arrivals growth in 2016. (photo by Brian Major)
Despite long being an also-ran among warm-weather island destinations, Bermuda experienced a tourism renaissance in 2016.
The nation enjoyed its best year for visitor arrivals since 2007, reversing years of sliding land- and cruise-ship based visitor numbers.
According to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data, Bermuda hosted 231,127 land-based, overnight visitor arrivals between January and November of 2016: a 10.7 percent increase over 2015. Bermuda welcomed 396,216 cruise vacationers during the same period in 2016: a 7.2 percent year-over-year increase.
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Bermuda’s air arrivals were also up by 17 percent in 2016 said Kevin Dallas, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA).
Dallas emphasized Bermuda is attracting highly desired younger travelers, noting more than one-half of all visitors in 2016 were under age 45.
Bermuda’s hotel occupancy also increased by 10 percent in 2016, said Dallas, though the territory’s hotel and resort sector remain largely stagnant with few new properties planned.
Bermuda’s hotel segment is not yet “sustainable and profitable,” Dallas said.
Yet, Bermuda’s hospitality sector will see changes as BTA earlier this month inked a pact with home-stay provider Airbnb to “promote Bermuda as a world-class destination for leisure, group travel and tourism investment.”
It will create a framework that “opens a dialogue between the government of Bermuda and Airbnb to discuss topical industry matters including marketing and regulation,” the parties said in a statement.
Airbnb will also “share its aggregated data to be included in analyzing and evaluating the tourism industry’s performance,” the statement added. The agreement mirrors others Airbnb has reached with Caribbean destinations in recent months, including Aruba, Curacao and Jamaica as well as CTO.
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“Bermuda is an important and growing market for Airbnb, and we are very excited to be working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Bermuda government to help grow sustainable tourism to the island,” said Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb’s representative for the Caribbean and Central America.
There are 257 Airbnb listings in Bermuda, and a typical host earns $14,900 per year, Sullivan said.
Increased air access is driving Bermuda’s growing visitor arrivals as well. Michael Fahy, Bermuda’s minister of tourism, transport and municipalities, said the territory added 51,000 airline seats to the destination in 2016.
The territory is also generating growth in the cruise segment. Last year, Bermuda secured a key tourism agreement under which Norwegian Cruise Line will operate regular itineraries featuring Bermuda’s St. George’s district. Under the agreement, 12 cruise ships will call at St. George’s each year between 2017 and 2022 Fahy said.
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BTA and Norwegian Cruise Line will also operate catamaran ferries between Bermuda’s Royal Naval Dockyard and tourist sites on Bermuda’s East End as part of the agreement—a move meant to ease chronic island transportation issues. The tenders will be restricted to Norwegian Cruise Line passengers.
St. George’s is also poised to welcome its first new hotel in decades: Slated to open in 2019 on the site of a former Club Med resort, the 122-room St. Regis property will feature a casino, a ballroom and an 18-hole golf course.
Fahy said the project will “create jobs and opportunities for Bermudians.”