The primary purpose of almost 40 percent of visitors who flew to the Island last year was business or visiting friends and family, statistics released this week show.
Last year 235,860 visitors flew to Bermuda a 10.53 percent drop compared to 2008 and of those, 18 percent of visitors came for business and 16 percent to visit family and friends. Four percent of visitors came for a convention, down 24 percent compared to 2008.
On Thursday, Premier Ewart Brown released a detailed breakdown of the 2009 tourism figures and during the speech he said the Department of Tourism was aware of the role business people play in Bermuda’s hospitality industry.
“Business travel, though representing only 18 percent of visitors overall, remains integral to Bermuda’s economy, particularly given that their average per person expenditure far exceeds leisure spending,” he said. “Of particular interest, most business travellers this summer were visiting the Island for the first time, and an increased proportion are working for a company that has operations on-Island [according to an exit survey conducted in the summer months].”
And he said the number of visitors coming to see friends and family had risen over the years one reason overall visitor spending had dropped, although in 2009 those coming to see friends and family declined seven percent compared to 2008.
Convention business, which was hardest hit by the economic decline, saw a 24 percent decline in 2009 with only 8,487 people coming to the Island. But last week Shelley Meszoly, regional director of sales and marketing for Fairmont Bermuda, said she was “cautiously optimistic” for 2010.
In 2009, she said group bookings fell 30 percent at the Fairmont Southampton, reflecting a global trend. But she added: “We’re cautiously optimistic about 2010. It’s not going to be an easy year, but there is business out there and you can get it if you put out the right offer.”
Meanwhile, the Premier said the cruise ship industry was expected to generate $70 million for the economy this year.
In Thursday’s year end review of tourism the Premier projected a six percent increase in cruise arrivals in 2010 and said two cruise lines had already signed on for the 2011 season.
Dr. Brown, who is also Minister of Tourism, outlined the cruise ship season for 2010, saying: “One of the significant changes to the 2010 season is that ships will be staying longer. We discovered that cruise visitors who stay for only one day, often do not have enough time to experience all the Island has to offer.
“Retailers, restaurant owners and tour operators requested that we negotiate longer stays. I am pleased to say that this request was met with a positive response.”
This year the cruise ship schedule is:
• Holland America will make 24 cruises from New York to St. George’s and Hamilton.
• Celebrity Cruises will make 17 calls from New Jersey to Dockyard.
• Royal Caribbean will make 40 calls from New Jersey and Baltimore to Dockyard.
• Norwegian Cruise Line will make 45 calls from Boston and New York to Dockyard.
• Princess Cruises will make ten calls sailing from New York to Dockyard.
“In addition to the weekly callers, a number of premium cruise lines will call in Bermuda in 2010,” added the Premier. “The number of cruise calls is projected to increase from 138 in 2009 to 154 in 2010.
“We also project that the number of cruise visitor arrivals will increase from just over 318,000 in 2009 to just shy of 337,000 in 2010. This represents a six percent increase.”
Dr. Brown also said Heritage Wharf, in Dockyard, was expected to generate $34 million through government fees, on-Island spending by cruise visitors and crew as well as shore excursions taken by cruise visitors
In total the Premier said the cruise market was anticipated to contribute more than $70 million to Bermuda’s economy in 2010.
“I am pleased to announce some more exciting news. Holland America Line’s cruise ship Veendam will return to Bermuda in 2011,” he said. “The Veendam is scheduled to make 24 calls from New York, serving St. George’s and Hamilton.
“This commitment by Holland America for 2011 tells me that although there have been a few people who have expressed concerns about tendering in St. George’s; this has not deterred Holland America.”
Norwegian Cruise Lines has also committed to Bermuda for 2011. They will run two ships from the US North East coast, both holding more than 2,220 passengers.