BERMUDA – Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell told MPs yesterday that in his opinion gambling “is right for Bermuda”.
He was responding to questions by Shadow Minister Wayne Furbert who asked if he feels “gambling is right” then why bother with a referendum?
Mr Crockwell reminded his parliamentary counterpart that the referendum was ordered by the previous Progressive Labour Party Goverment.
“The Honourable Member would know and his Opposition Leader has stated quite clearly, we believe that this issue should ultimately be decided by the people of the country.”
Mr Furbert then asked for the status of the independent Tourism Authority and whether consultant Corey Butterfield was still working for the Ministry.
The Minister replied: “We will be bringing the statutory framework to establish the autonomous and independent Tourism Authority during this Parliamentary session.” He also confirmed that Mr Butterfield was still working within the Ministry as a consultant “on this project”.
The questions were fielded after Mr Crockwell’s Ministerial statement on the recent Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) annual Caribbean Week in New York during the first week of June.
The Minister, who attended the event with Tourism Director Billy Griffith, said the international tourism media was watching Bermuda closely to see if gambling would be legalised as the country grapples with a shrinking tourism market.
Representatives from more than 30 countries and territories met for the tourism development agency’s event.
“While we are, of course, not located physically in the Caribbean, among the benefits the organisation provides include specialised support and technical assistance in sustainable tourism development,” said the Minister.
“The CTO’s vision is to position the Caribbean and Bermuda as the most desirable, year-round, warm weather destination, with the purpose of leading sustainable tourism.”
He focused on “two of the most important aspects of Caribbean Week” that he attended. The first was a gathering of the CTO Council of Ministers.
“One common cause in this meeting was the crucial role that air service plays in the ability to sell and compete in today’s global tourism marketplace.
“Countries throughout the region and, indeed, throughout the world are competing for an ever-shrinking piece of the aviation pie with fewer air carriers wielding an inordinate and greater amount of power than ever before,” Mr Crockwell said.
After meeting with over 100 representatives at the CTOs Media Marketplace he said: “The media was particularly interested in the question of whether Bermuda would consider allowing gambling in the destination.
“In fact, I conducted several in-depth interviews about our recently announced commitment to hold a gambling referendum later this year. This is, without a doubt, a hot-button issue and the tourism industry is watching very closely whether or not Bermuda will become a player, so to speak, in this potentially lucrative market and thereby become more competitive.
“The media was also very interested in our imminent shift to a Tourism Authority and the impact this may have on the industry.
“I emphasised that the statutory framework will be debated in this House during this session. It was clear that the tourism media is paying close attention to what we are doing here in Bermuda,” he added.
Recognising that CTO member nations “are competing with increasingly aggressive and emerging destinations worldwide” he stressed that “Bermuda is not alone”.
“No longer can we or any destination sit back and wait for tourists to come here, simply because we have a beautiful beach of friendly people,” Mr Crockwell said.
“Tourists are looking for destinations that make the vacation or trip decision easy for them by offering world-class service, facilities and a world-class experience.
“They want to be engaged with things to do, places to see and experiences to be had. In short, they want more.”
He concluded: “Now, more than ever, we must give our visitors ‘So Much More’. The OBA government was elected to help turn around our tourism industry and I am confident that we are heading in the right direction.
“We will continue to highlight our existing strengths — our proximity, our beauty, our people — as well as focusing on our own distinctive cultural heritage and our tourism hubs.
“It is also our responsibility to look at new ways to improve our business, such as exploring whether gambling is right for Bermuda, and working to attract investment in our destination.
“As I stated earlier this week, failure is not an option. ”