Product & Experiences Division
Awareness of the customer’s perception of the product or service is key to finding ways of making the experience better.
The Product & Experiences division is responsible for developing core products (cultural tourism, sports tourism and business/meetings, incentives, conferences, events) and complementary products (nautical tourism, leisure and entertainment, cruise tourism and eco-tourism) and service offerings to increase the overall attractiveness and competitiveness of Bermuda as a tourism destination. The division is tasked with ensuring Bermuda’s product and experiences meet or exceed the aspirations of our core markets.
Product development and commercial efforts are focused on key luxury segments, niche markets and groups and events, with the latter playing a key role in reducing seasonality.
Product Development Investment Programme
One of the major objectives of the Product & Experiences division was to establish and execute a product development investment programme, in line with the strategic objective of reducing seasonality in visitor arrivals. The experiences identified for investment demonstrate an alignment with the Bermuda National Tourism Plan objectives, with emphasis in the areas of Sports, Arts and Culture, and New Experiences.
By the end of 2014, the new product development strategic framework was fully established. The framework sets the objectives, strategy and process to identify opportunities for new or enhanced products and experiences. Assessment and evaluations are based on a product’s overall alignment with NTP objectives, and our learning and procedural refinements from the 2014 experience investment applications process. Other inputs to help identify and confirm new/enhanced products included:
- Product inventory and gap analysis results
- New and existing consumer research, to gain better insight into visitor expectations
- Market positioning assessment, in consultation with the Sales & Marketing team
- Stakeholder engagement (public and private sector)
- Measurement and quality improvement – ongoing measurement and analysis of ROI and return on experience; establishing a baseline for the division’s KPI metrics
During the year, two rounds of experience investment applications were processed to identify new experiences that would be funded by the BTA. In total, almost $2 million of BTA support was provided to 74 approved submissions. A total of $930,000 in BTA funding was approved in Round One, while $813,000 was confirmed in Round Two, which took place through September/October 2014.
Based on feedback from applicants and the internal experience of the initial round, for Round Two the division implemented system upgrades and completed pre-application outreach by, first of all, streamlining the web-based submission tool for applicants so that the process is now 100% electronic and more user-friendly. Furthermore, we revised weightings and evaluation criteria to evaluate submissions more efficiently, and initiated phased processing for a deeper evaluation of shortlisted applications. Survey results of Round Two applicants show that the process refinements applied (based on Round One feedback) were effective. The streamlined web-based submission tool for applicants increased efficiencies for applicants and the BTA, without compromising detail of submissions.
In addition, the division conducted lunch and learn sessions and specific workshops to educate and prepare potential applicants. While fewer applications were received, they were of a much higher quality.
An important new step in Round Two was the provision of capital funding support for some applications. This facilitated implementation for new experiences that are highly aligned with the BTA’s goals, which otherwise may not have been made available to visitors.
The majority of the experiences selected for support target the shoulder/winter months, which have now been re-positioned as the peak season for arts, culture and sport. Of the total number of experiences and events supported, 26 (over two rounds) were totally new. This outcome not only helps reduce seasonality, but it also presents target visitors with new experiences that are market-driven, which is another key objective, i.e. focused on visitors’ desire to enjoy local culture and food, interactive activities and interaction with local residents.
The following product and experience enhancements were identified, confirmed and development work initiated, for pilot and/or launch by Q2 2015:
ARTS & CULTURE
It’s so difficult for first-time entrepreneurs like us to get a start-up loan with lending as tight as it is these days. If not for this interest-free loan from the Tourism Authority I’m not sure when we would have been able to get our idea off the ground.
The BTA’s investment is vital to the success of Bermuda fishing competitions, including the Bermuda Billfish Release Cup charity-based event and the Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship including the Bermuda Billfish Blast, the Bermuda Big Game Classic and the Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament. With the BTA’s support, we are able to consistently brand the destination to attract the participants to experience our world-class tournaments.
At first I thought hydro-bikes could be a fun and affordable activity for local teenage boys, particularly in the summer. We still can provide that option locally, but the Tourism Authority process has helped us realise we can also hire young men as employees. In the current climate providing a job – even on a part time basis – is probably the most beneficial thing we can do for our community.
Round One – implemented April 2014
Total number of experience investment applications was 135
Total approved for support: 33
9 approved for marketing support
Arts & Culture
Round Two – implementation Jan. – Dec. 2015
Total number of experience investment applications was 73
Total approved for support: 41
7 approved for marketing support 4 approved for capital support
Arts & Culture
Four completely new experiences also came from the first-round BTA-supported initiatives:
- Bermuda Water Trails – Created themed water trails that will provide visitors with authentic, educational experiences while leveraging and repurposing Hub 5 (Offshore Bermuda/ocean) as a new business opportunity.
- Bermuda Arts Month – With the extensive art and cultural experiences available on-island, the BTA will work with local partners to highlight and promote new and existing local art experiences. Titled as “Bermuda Arts Month”, the series of unique experiences available during this month will kick off the 2015/16 Arts and Culture Season calendar in an exciting new way.
- School Sports Training – This will be a signature joint partnership with the National Sports Centre and designated sports-focused tour operators with proven track records of delivering Bermuda’s wide array of sports assets to teams looking to travel to a destination for training. We are initially targeting collegiate/prep school teams for spring training in Bermuda with new accommodation/transport/activities packages. The programme will grow to include year-round options. Targeted sports include golf, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby, soccer and swimming.
- Forts Tour – In partnership with the Corporation of St. George, the BTA created a new twice-weekly Forts Tour scheduled until the end of Q1 2015. This guided and interactive tour describes some of Bermuda’s rich fortification history, which features storytelling at Gates Fort, Alexandra Battery and Fort St. Catherine, and has been very well received by visitors.
In line with experience enhancements, the following project was identified for support:
Railway Trail experience updates – work to implement physical and infrastructure upgrades along the Railway Trail, as well as excursion and service opportunities, began during the year. A working group was established to address specific actions required, with representatives from relevant government departments. Four sub-groups have been established to focus on sustainability, signage/maintenance, experiences, and repurposing of the Trail. Each sub-group has created a timeline of specific projects to work towards with a rollout date of new railway experiences set for April 2015.
In addition, and to complement the product development investment programme, the BTA provided financial support for infrastructure-related initiatives that helped to enrich and expose particular experiences, such as the “Fun Bus” transportation service to St. David’s cultural attractions and beaches.
Inventory of key experiences that meet or exceed target market expectations
The Product & Experiences division achieved the objective of compiling the existing range of products and experiences in each hub, as set out and identified in the NTP. The results have been used to complete a gap analysis, whereby the product inventory has been overlaid with BTA consumer research to help identify product or experience gaps that are relevant to Bermuda’s target visitor. The gap analysis also contributes to product development strategy and liaison with Sales & Marketing with regards to marketing potential. The process involved using existing and new tools, as well as commissioned research, which included updated visitor exit surveys, specific on-site satisfaction surveys of visitors at BTA-supported events and experiences; and the Review Pro guest rating monitoring application, to measure customer satisfaction and aggregated/individual ratings of a sample of Bermuda hotels.
In addition, the division worked with the Research & Business Intelligence Division to develop and commission an online visitor expectations survey regarding beach experiences and entertainment. The survey results will provide market-driven data to develop strategy and products for Bermuda’s beaches and entertainment, together with monitoring hotel performance from online consumer ratings with the Review Pro application.
Cruise Line Strategy
In line with establishing a new strategy and targeted outreach plans for cruise ship partnerships, the Product & Experience division held its first round of meetings with key decision-makers and counterparts at cruise lines in the US and UK/Europe through Q2 2014. The discussions, which also introduced the BTA as a new on-island partner, included Royal Caribbean – together with representatives from Celebrity and Azamara cruises; Norwegian Cruise Lines; Fred Olsen Line (UK); and AIDA Cruise Line (Germany). One of the primary objectives of the cruise line strategy is to confirm partner(s) for regular small-ship service to St. George’s, and also possibly Hamilton. Opportunities for additional sailings for the America’s Cup (AC 2017) during regular Bermuda itineraries were also discussed, as well as providing charters to facilitate additional visitor accommodation for the races.
Extended discussions later in the year focused on opportunities around AC 2017 with specific prospective cruise line partners, i.e. Norwegian and recently acquired subsidiary Prestige Cruise Line (incorporating Oceania and Regent brands), and Royal Caribbean, together with Azamara Cruises. These discussions included an AC representative to explore three possible opportunities: ship charters, specific AC-themed itineraries throughout the 2017 season and sponsorship. Dialogue will continue through Q1 2015, and will also cover facilitating AC-specific visitor experiences.
Visitor Information Centres (VIC)
Research has shown that Visitor Information Centres around the world play an important role in supporting positive visitor experiences. This is why, during 2014, the Bermuda Tourism Authority decided to review strategy in this area, and ultimately to invest in Bermuda’s VIC network by bringing it under the BTA’s direct control and operation, on a phased basis. The goal is to make the VICs the authoritative local source for all tourism-related information, incorporating best practices in customer service standards and introducing new technological advancements. The strategy shift of self-managing VICs will allow the BTA to use taxpayer funds more effectively, enhance customer service for visitors, unify brand messaging and physical look across all visitor centres, upgrade VIC facilities and better represent industry stakeholders’ interests.
A review of the existing centres was completed in 2014 and, as a result, the St. George’s VIC was the first to be overhauled with upgraded technological features and Wi-Fi access, layout enhancements and a fresh coat of bright pink paint to provide a cheerful island welcome to visitors.
Cultural Tourism Initiatives, St. George’s & St. David’s (Hub 1)
In collaboration with Operations, the Product & Experiences division created a strategic plan for the new Cultural Ambassador Programme in the latter part of 2014. The three-year plan provides direction, timelines and detailed action steps for ongoing stakeholder collaboration, product and experience enhancement, as well as cultural asset management and marketing. It was decided that the programme would roll out in St. George’s and St. David’s, the Hub 1 community. The broad range of cultural organisations within the Hub have embraced the plan wholeheartedly.
In addition, by the middle of 2014, the division concluded the first segment of a strategic planning process to facilitate collaboration and new ideas among Hub 1 stakeholders for cultural tourism initiatives. The BTA engaged 27 representatives from the various stakeholder groups within Hub 1 in working group activities, as well as individual feedback sessions. A consensus around the cultural tourism development vision for Hub 1 was achieved and the strategic plan and related action steps to bring that vision to life was completed by November.
We completed product inventory during the period, and continued on-site customer satisfaction surveys for BTA-supported experiences. The survey results will assist with assessment of re-applications for existing experiences, as well as tracking visitor satisfaction.
Sports Tourism Initiative
Sports tourism is recognised as one of the core products for product development in Bermuda. One of the main objectives for the BTA is to identify and develop competitive sports events that provide the greatest ROI in terms of tourism’s goals. Our aim is also to expand niche sports, such as golf, diving and game fishing, and by helping to extend supporting infrastructure and to promote a multisport training facility (National Sports Centre). This includes providing tailored services and marketing initiatives targeting sports teams and enthusiasts from existing and new markets.
In 2014 the Product & Experiences division began identifying signature events, using result-based criteria, particularly in regards to generating target visitors and economic impact for Bermuda. One example was the Bermuda Marathon Weekend, which was confirmed as our first multi-year agreement (two years) for investment. This decision was based on the event’s proven delivery of ROI, as in 1,000 visitors and an approximately $1m economic impact. This event now provides the model for such agreements moving forward under the new investment process. The division has since elevated the Bermuda Regional Bridge tournament to Signature Event status. Another event that we have begun to explore for possibly expanding the partnership is the Bermuda Triple Crown fishing tournaments, which traditionally bring over 450 visitors and has in excess of $4m in economic impact.
In addition to the above events, 2014 saw a number of high-profile sports tourism events take place on-island, which attracted more than 5,900 visitors and generated over 29,000 room nights:
America’s Cup (AC)
The culmination of 10 months of work by the ACBDA (America’s Cup Bermuda) bid team – of which BTA was a part – resulted in Bermuda being chosen as the host venue of the 2017 America’s Cup. As a result, Bermuda will also host an America’s Cup World Series event in October 2015. Meetings and input covered infrastructure, site plans, logistics, budgeting, marketing, carrying capacity, transport plans, legislative changes, super-yacht policy, race course analysis, on-island hospitality, marketing activation, public relations, entertainment options, commercial leads and economic benefit analysis. The process also included multiple site visits and meetings with the America’s Cup Event Authority Team and negotiations to finalise the Host Venue Agreement.
The world’s premier sailing event is considered the most difficult trophy in sport to win, and will bring both elite sailing teams and global media to the island’s Great Sound. The high-profile global event is expected to have significant impact on Bermuda’s tourism industry, beginning with the America’s Cup World Series event in October 2015 through to the America’s Cup Finals events in 2017.
Bermuda is perfectly suited for hosting the America’s Cup, with an Atlantic-based location that will grow the event’s visibility among East Coast audiences; an ideal broadcast time zone for both North American and European audiences; a rich maritime legacy – Bermuda’s very foundation is sailing; and perhaps most importantly, a warm, hospitable community that has extensive experience executing marquee events.
The Royal Naval Dockyard was selected as the venue to base the 2017 America’s Cup. In anticipation of the event, a purpose-built event village will be developed in the South Basin of Dockyard to provide an optimal spectator setting.
The 3-year plan provides direction, timelines and detailed action steps for ongoing stakeholder collaboration, product/experience enhancement, cultural asset management and marketing. The broad range of cultural organisations within the Hub have embraced the plan.