2015 YEAR IN REVIEW
“Tourism is the one part of the Bermuda economy best placed for growth in the near term and the Tourism Authority is the only publicly-funded entity discussing growth.”
CEO Bill Hanbury makes the case for tourism in local media
The Operations division continued to work through 2015 to maintain a solid organisational foundation on which the Bermuda Tourism Authority can achieve its mandate. A number of new corporate governance polices and procedures were identified, developed and implemented through the year, such as Public Access to Information (PATI) and the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) Accreditation, amongst others. Our Human Resources section worked to meet objectives to position the BTA as an Employer of Choice for existing and potential employees, while our Stakeholder Relations and On-island Communications team focused on building relationships with the community through the media and via Stakeholder events, such as the Tourism Summits in January and November. The training and standards programmes that commenced in 2014 are thriving, enabling us to expand our Certified Tourism Ambassador Programme. Another area of importance and focus for the division has been the development of Vacation Rental Property legislation, as we seek to align this sector with five of the National Tourism Plan’s eight strategic objectives.
Public Access to Information (PATI)
On 31 March 2015, the BTA published its list of contracts and the organisation’s Information Statement, becoming the first entity under Public Access to Information (PATI) legislation to be in full compliance with the Act. The spirit of PATI is to provide members of the public with access to all organisational records of publicly funded entities. As a recipient of substantial public funding, the Bermuda Tourism Authority is governed first by our own BTA Act and then by PATI.
The Chief Operations Officer holds the role of the BTA’s designated Information Officer. The BTA had been preparing for PATI since early fourth quarter 2014, and has a fully trained PATI team in place to ensure continued compliance. As an organisation committed to being results-orientated, accountable and transparent to our stakeholders, the BTA recognises the importance to Bermuda of this historic move and fully supports the spirit and intent of the legislation. Details on all PATI matters relating to the BTA can be found on our corporate website.
Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) Accreditation
The Board of Directors for the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) completed the review of The Bermuda Tourism Authority’s application for accreditation in the cycle ending 1 June and approved the accreditation of the Bermuda Tourism Authority. The BTA was awarded with the DMAP seal by the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), in recognition of our commitment to industry excellence and meeting the industry standard for performance and accountability of destination marketing organisations (DMO) around the world. This accreditation decision indicates that the Bermuda Tourism Authority has satisfied the rigorous standards set forth by the professional destination marketing community.
Since its inception in January 2007, the accreditation programme requires a DMO to successfully comply with a multitude of mandatory and voluntary standards that span a variety of performance areas to gain this momentous achievement. The standards cover nearly all aspects related to the management and marketing of a DMO including governance, finance, human resources, sales, communications, destination development and research.
2014 Annual Report
Following the DMO Accreditation, the BTA’s commitment to good financial governance was further underscored by our unqualified audit, covering the time period of 16 December 2013 through 31 December 2014. Upon being completed by the Auditor General in July, the financial statements were included in our first Annual Report and released shortly thereafter.
Foreign Currency Purchase Tax Amendment (FCPT)
The BTA’s request for a waiver of the Foreign Currency Purchase Tax (FCPT) was agreed by Cabinet, and passed by the Legislature. The resulting Foreign Currency Purchase Tax Amendment Order 2015 was gazetted in December at which time the BTA became exempt from FCPT. This is a significant accomplishment as the BTA paid $238,447.00 in FCPT over the period of January 2014 through November 2015.
To best support the needs of the BTA, the Human Resources strategic plan focused on six key objectives of HR Management: proactive resource planning, retention initiatives, performance management, team building and employee engagement, HRIS employee portal maximisation, and the tracking and distribution of key employee metrics.
In line with the plan, team members began to participate in development opportunities identified during the mid-year performance review period. Seminars and workshops attended included Toastmasters, Advanced Photoshop instruction and the “Live2Lead” seminar, which was held at the Elbow Beach Hotel and featured noted speakers John C. Maxwell, a leadership coach, expert and author, and Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer. Our designated management trainee completed a three-month assignment in the New York office and spent the last year completing projects in several divisions of the organisation including Operations and Investments.
The 2015 BTA Employee Strategic Planning Meeting was held in September at the St. George’s Club. This annual meeting allows for frank and open discussion on plans presented for the year ahead, participation in team building exercises and the opportunity for all employees to drill down on solutions being applied to complex industry problems.
HR continues to make enhancements to the BTA Employee portal, which allows full-time staff 24/7 access to their personal information and benefits. The online Performance Management form process was completed, which will also aid in process and record-keeping efficiency.
By year-end, the BTA had 39 employees split between the Bermuda and New York offices. This includes full-time permanent positions and one full-time fixed-term contract. HR remains committed to retaining our high-performing team and has reached its goal of 90 percent retention rate for 2015.
The breakdown of the divisions is as follows:
EXTRACTED FROM THE BTA RESPONSE TO PATI REQUEST 257
The Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) has, as a matter of routine, made it a priority to adhere to the spirit of the legislation through the wide release of information pertaining to the business functions and operations of our organisation. Through regular media releases, stakeholder newsletters, community outreach and our website, we have, and continue to, share, inform, update and seek input and feedback from the general public and industry stakeholders. We consider the amount and level of detail shared as a standard for others to follow and look forward to seeing the same done by other local organisations entrusted with public funds.
In the spirit of PATI, the BTA has ensured we are open and transparent in all our functions, including accounting for public expenditure (sic). The BTA has been able to attract top talent and incentivise their team while following best practice financial models. This reflects good stewardship and accountability of public funds. It is our conclusion, therefore, that the information that is most in the public interest is already in the public domain and is reasonably accessible to the public.
Research & Business
Product & Experiences
Sales & Marketing
The overall objective for the On-Island Communications team is to strengthen partnerships and communications with industry stakeholders throughout the local community, as well as monitor and report on local media for print, broadcast and online coverage of local tourism press releases and editorial generated by the BTA or by external entities. Some of the objectives achieved are highlighted here.
Advocacy & Stakeholder Engagement
Stakeholder engagement cut across industry through the year, with successful efforts highlighting new and established businesses across the tourism value chain. These ran the gamut from the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series to the launch of a campaign to build group travel business and the BTA’s two Tourism Summits, while Tourism Appreciation expanded to include key community influencers and direct public outreach via television programming.
Among the highlights of stakeholder engagement, was a productive meeting held with Bermuda Industrial Union leadership, following which the BTA made several presentations to transport workers to share the results of our transport survey.
Based on the strides made by the Product & Experiences team to grow the island’s food culture story, we created an end-of-year event to celebrate key Food Culture moments for 2015. This allowed us to celebrate stakeholders helping the BTA to execute on its objectives, while also focusing the public’s attentions on the strides being made to accomplish National Tourism Plan goals relating to gastronomy.
Advocacy on the web
As is consistent with destination marketing organisations around the world, the BTA debuted an advocacy section on its website that includes volumes of historical information about the tourism industry. PATI compliance information was added to this section of the website.
Making the Case for Growth
While in the Parliamentary budget debate and in local media conversations focused on cuts and austerity, CEO Bill Hanbury penned an opinion piece in local media and recorded a short explanatory video that made the following case: tourism is the one part of the Bermuda economy best placed for growth in the near term. The timing of this message was critical as the Tourism Authority was the only publicly funded entity discussing growth. There was zero resistance to his message in local media.
Top 10 Moments
A list was created and distributed on social media to acknowledge some of the most important moments in Bermuda Tourism during 2015.
Promoting our Success
The Best Island Award for adventure travel from Outside magazine presented an opportunity and a challenge. Because the BTA’s public relations successes had recently generated so much positive editorial coverage (Delta Sky, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, etc.) the BTA ran the risk of the Outside recognition going hardly noticed. To combat that challenge, BTA invited the media to see members of the Tourism Authority team cliff jump at Admiralty Park as a way to celebrate the accolade and to actively show the kind of adventure options available to visitors, particularly younger travellers. Public feedback was overwhelmingly positive, deeming the action a success from a communications standpoint.
To ensure industry relevant information related to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series was shared on a timely basis, the BTA co-ordinated a presentation session in September. The meeting was held to allow tourism industry partners to hear first-hand the event work underway operationally, and from a Sales & Marketing and Product & Experiences perspective. All relevant parties were involved in one way or another, including AECA and ACBDA. The well-attended session garnered positive feedback and the presentations were made available on our corporate website.
The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in October provided a wealth of opportunities to engage with tourism industry stakeholders in a meaningful way. The most vibrant example of this was the Prep Rally at Hamilton City Hall on the Monday before the start of official festivities on Friday. At least ten America’s Cup official partners and hundreds of their employees joined the BTA, the ACEA and others for a 30-minute rally, which included remarks from vendors, entertainers and the Premier. The event was well received and members of Team Artemis attended.
Additionally, Operations partnered with the Product & Experiences team and ACBDA to host America’s Cup briefings for local taxi drivers. Operations also handled the logistics and communications to raise more than $6,200 for the Endeavour Community Sailing Programme by selling beanbags used at the World Series event. Finally, Glenn Jones presented America’s Cup information in a presentation to the Sandy’s Rotary Club along with CEO Bill Hanbury.
#BDA365 was created to assist the Product & Experiences team with motivating experience providers to stay open year-round. The #BDA365 campaign approach centred on celebrating those stakeholders who are already open year-round and helping them tell their story online, particularly on social media. #BDA365 was also incorporated into Tourism Forward. Mild winter weather seemed to help with the messaging around this campaign.
The first Tourism Summit to be organised by the BTA was held at the Fairmont Southampton in January, and was attended by more than 300 industry stakeholders. Ideally our annual summit will take place in in the fourth quarter to allow stakeholders time to plan for the upcoming year. In 2014, though, it proved a challenge to accomplish this since the BTA was formed in that year. However, the Operations division worked to correct that scheduling at the first opportunity.
A second Tourism Summit was held in November to coincide with the annual travel partners’ summit. It was again held at the Fairmont Southampton and, once again, provided a common platform for the local industry to come together in a positive and engaging manner. A total of 248 stakeholders gathered for a full day of presentations and interactive sessions, covering a wide range of topics presented by both international and local industry stakeholders. While the number of attendees decreased by 77 when compared to the first Summit in January, the audience gathered was more reflective of the target market for the event, consisting of a greater number of industry decision makers and influencers.
Post-event survey results indicate the participation fee of $25 introduced for the November event was not seen as a deterrent to attendance, as nearly 80 percent of respondents agreed that the fee was the ‘right price’, while 9 percent thought it was either ‘too low’ or ‘irrelevant’, and only 4 percent of felt it was ‘too high’. Overall, the feedback was extremely positive with 98.5 percent stating it was time well spent, and nearly 90 percent wiling to recommend the event to others.
The Operations division conducted two breakout sessions: Vacation Rental Property Update and the Business Benefits of the CTA programme. Both sessions were fully subscribed and well received. The former included an update on the proposed legislation, including discussion of Government’s intentional to require a mandatory listing of all VRPs and the decision to not impose any fees on these properties.
In line with BTA’s commitment to transparency, CEO Bill Hanbury, along with the Chief Operations Officer and Chief Product & Experiences Officer, appeared on the ‘Let’s Talk’ programme with Gary Moreno. The salary disclosure earlier in the year paved the way for an open dialogue with the public and a moderator on this live public affairs television programme, and resulted in positive feedback from stakeholders and the general public.
Glenn Jones, BTA’s Director of Stakeholder and Public Relations, was a guest on the Sherri Simmons radio programme (Magic 102.7 FM) and answered questions live on air that came in from the public via phone and email. He also wrote a first-person opinion piece for Bernews that provided a new way for highlighting the BTA’s efforts to reimagine its image to the next generation of travellers.
In support of the BTA Board of Directors’ goal to increase its public communications profile, a series of columns were developed to assist in communicating organisational success. The primary focus of the content for each column covered one of these areas:
- Increase visitor demand
- Grow spending from air and cruise visitors
- Support local entrepreneurs
- Stimulate infrastructure investment
- Increase vacation and group visitor air arrivals
To date the columns have run as paid advertising in the Royal Gazette. They are also mailed electronically to our stakeholder list.
In November, the BTA debuted Tourism Forward TV, airing on local television and online at the BTA’s Vimeo channel. The aim of the programme was to deliver industry information directly to the community, and each edition of the six-episode season covered a different topic in the BTA’s strategy to grow the island’s tourism economy:
- Show 1 – Solving the Shoulder Season
- Show 2 – Visitor Spending
- Show 3 – Target Audiences
- Show 4 – Entrepreneurs & Jobs
- Show 5 – America’s Cup
- Show 6 – Infrastructure & Growth Planning
The feedback on the programming has been extremely positive from the community and stakeholders alike.
In a dual effort to beautify Bermuda and motivate community spirit, the BTA met with businesses and community organisations to discuss the feasibility of launching a public/private sector neighbourhood beautification initiative. While primarily serving a practical purpose – clearing and beautifying roadsides in Bermuda – the initiative also aims to give residents a greater sense of unity, friendship and purpose, and to connect them more directly with the businesses and service organisations in their areas. Based on stakeholder feedback, the initiative is slated to launch in the first quarter of 2016.
In partnership with Keep Bermuda Beautiful, the BTA team, assisted by CTA’s, took part in clean-up efforts that positively impacted public beaches at Clearwater, Warwick Long Bay, Mangrove Bay and Elbow Beach.
Bring it Home Campaign
The Bring It Home Campaign launched in the fourth quarter with the objective of motivating members of the public to influence the group travel decisions of friends and colleagues, and to educate the public on the importance of group travel to the local economy. The campaign has been covered editorially in local media and complemented with local advertising online and in print. A presentation to the Hamilton Rotary Club also proved helpful in the communications of Bring It Home.
As a component of our tourism appreciation initiative, the Bermuda Tourism Authority developed and underwrote the advertising and promotional activities associated with Hospitality Month in April. The radio campaign featured ambassadors in the tourism industry talking about their commitment to Hospitality and Tourism under phase two of #lovemybermuda. These individuals were taken from a diverse cross-section of the industry, with the aim of reflecting how what each person is doing demonstrates their love for Bermuda. Additional activities included the BTA hosting a reception attended by 150 people, recognising Certified Tourism Ambassadors (CTA’s), ‘Hospitality Skills = Life Skills’ school volunteers, S.T.A.R.T. students and ‘Hospitality Heroes.’
In advance of the Experience Investment programme’s call for submissions, the BTA hosted a series of Lunch ‘n Learn sessions that were aimed at local tourism-minded entrepreneurs to assist them in aligning their ideas with the objectives of the Tourism Experiences investment process. The objective of the four-session series was to help entrepreneurs create strong proposals – particularly for those who had not been through the application process before and wanted to put forward new and unique ideas. A total of 67 individual attendees took part, many being present for multiple sessions on different aspects of the business proposal application.
Extensive preparation for the third phase of the #lovemybermuda tourism appreciation campaign took place throughout the second half of 2015. A strategy was created to promote and develop a platform where people could share with their community of social media followers, via video, what they love about Bermuda through non-traditional grassroots activities and experiences that they participate in, and to promote a compelling call to action for tourism advocates, individually and collectively, to demonstrate their love and pride for their island. The BTA engaged multiple partners from the island’s cultural-centric communities in furthering these objectives and the #lovemybermuda video challenge continues into 2016.
Training & Standards
The National Service Standard Programme (NSSP) started in earnest in January 2015 with field tests conducted as the final step prior to an island-wide launch. Two courses of four hours each, Blue Flag 101 and Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA), are required for certification. The courses are not held over the summer months.
An incentive programme for CTAs was introduced to help ambassadors experience Bermuda and to subsequently recommend activities, products and experiences to our island visitors. The Bermuda Tourism Ambassador ID card was developed and distributed to CTAs to enable them to receive incentives island-wide. In addition, a monthly newsletter was also introduced and is designed to educate and inform CTAs on new and established activities and attractions. The content also highlights their peers and the businesses that have committed to the programme. In addition to encouraging CTAs to explore and learn more about Bermuda, the newsletter provides ways for CTAs to gain their certification renewal points.
The first CTA mixer, hosted by Rosa’s, was well attended. Ambassadors were provided with a platform to mingle with their counterparts and discuss their unique experiences. Information on upcoming industry events was shared, including details on the BTA’s Experience Investment process.
Since the introduction of the programme, a total of 601 customer-facing/front-line hospitality and tourism employees have registered to participate in the CTA programme. Of that number, 461 have completed the course and are now recognised as CTA’s.
“With all the knowledge I obtained, it will help my future endeavours flourish. Open-mindedness and willingness were the key factors in these sessions for me.”
Vacation Rental Properties
There are approximately 273 Vacation Rental units in Bermuda, with roughly 437 bedrooms – the equivalent of 11 percent of Bermuda’s licensed accommodation room count. This sector is largely self-regulating and currently operates with complete autonomy. There is no description of these Vacation Rental Properties in Bermuda’s legislative or regulatory framework: while a Vacation Rental Property (VRP) is often portrayed as a personal relationship between the VRP owner and visitor, it is undisputedly a commercial relationship. Annual revenues generated by this local industry sector, based on 70 percent occupancy, are estimated to be $20 million.
As identified in Bermuda’s National Tourism Plan, accommodations are an integral part of Tourism Value Chain. Whereas some hold the view that VRPs augment the current lack of licensed hotel beds, and therefore compete in the same arena, this sector has a number of key market differentiators that demonstrate their separation from licensed properties. The Bermuda Tourism Authority undertook a review of the VRP market in relation to the island’s challenges and opportunities as identified in the National Tourism Plan (NTP), seeking to align the sector with the NTP’s eight strategic objectives.
In preparation of this discussion paper, the BTA sought to actively engage VRP owners and other likely impacted stakeholders, including VRP agents, hoteliers, and potential VRP providers on this topic. The BTA conducted a discussion forum as well as an online survey to gauge the public’s opinion on the subject of vacation rentals. The forum, held during the Bermuda Tourism Summit in January 2015, was an interactive session which more than 100 persons attended. The online survey was open for two weeks in February: 216 persons responded, 71 (33 percent) of whom self-identified as VRP owners. Additionally, a position paper on VPR was submitted by the Bermuda Hotel Association. Finally, a VRP focus group consisting of VRP owners and agents was convened to provide input on the BTA’s proposed recommendations.
The discussion paper was submitted to the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport in April 2015. The paper documented the results of the review and proposed a framework by which the VRP market will play a clearly defined and integral part in meeting five of the eight National Tourism Plan objectives:
- Build unique and create competitive positioning
- Increase visitor spending
- Improve quality throughout the Tourism Value Chain
- Build pride and create jobs
- Create economic and social sustainability
The review also presented the path to meeting BTA’s overall objectives by:
- Developing a ‘light-touch’ regulatory framework specific to VRP in Bermuda that enables visitors choosing a VRP for their on-Island stay to do so with confidence.
- Ensuring Bermuda’s VRP sector positively reflects on the overall product and experience that Bermuda markets and provides to our visitors.
- Creating a voluntary registry of Bermuda’s VRPs to market and promote alongside traditional guest accommodations.
In response to the discussion paper on Vacation Rental Properties submitted, Government support was expressed for the definition of a VRP and all other VRP recommendations made by the BTA, except regulating the 2.5 percent fee. We were prepared for this potential outcome: BTA’s legislation was specifically crafted to be broad in scope, giving us the autonomy to raise and generate revenue. The main issue outstanding at the end of 2015 is the legal standing of rent-controlled units operating as VRP. However, the VRP legislation is expected to be laid to Parliament during the first quarter of 2016.