Product & Experiences Division
2015 YEAR IN REVIEW
“The Plein Air Festival captured the essence of Bermuda. These types of events, which speak to authentic and original tourism experiences, are exactly what the BTA is interested in nurturing as we invest in a brighter tourism future for Bermuda.”
Bill Hanbury, CEO BTA
The main remit of the Product & Experiences division is to develop core products and service offerings that in turn increase the overall attraction of Bermuda and build demand from overseas visitors. In line with those objectives, in 2015 the division established and reached a number of strategic milestones that followed the BTA divisional Growth Plan.
These milestones comprised a Product Quality Management strategy, Market Research on beach and entertainment experiences, new Signature Experiences and the establishment of a Return on Investment (ROI) model for even more effective evaluation of approved events and experiences.
The Product Quality Management strategy establishes a measurement and analysis system for monitoring the quality of products and experiences. The monitoring and reporting covers six product and experience categories: Culture, Entertainment, Sightseeing, Sports & Adventure, Culinary and Lodging. The analysis will measure ongoing performance in each category, and Bermuda’s competitiveness in each area compared to our competitive set of other destinations, based on aggregate customer rating data. Implementation and stakeholder engagement to launch the system will take place through 2016.
In conjunction with the Research and Business Intelligence team, the division also commissioned research into our target visitor expectations regarding beach and entertainment experiences. This perception study surveyed affluent US East Coast travellers and recent visitors to Bermuda, with the goal of better understanding the desires and needs of our visitors related to beaches, entertainment, pricing and amenities. This research is consistent with ensuring our development strategies result in opportunities to develop experiences and entrepreneurial offerings that resonate most with visitors. We are sharing the results with local industry stakeholders as we work collaboratively to make customer-led changes to Bermuda’s beach and entertainment experiences.
Several new experiences were of particular note in 2015, including:
- The Talleton Pairs, which targeted the UK golf market to bring visiting couples to enjoy our appealing golf courses and build further on Bermuda’s appeal for golfing vacations during the winter months.
- The Bermuda Heroes Weekend (BHW 2015), Bermuda’s first carnival event where visitors and locals came together in a safe environment to experience a variety of social and cultural features of the island. The strategy to incorporate one of our biggest assets, the water, into the weekend successfully differentiated Bermuda from other destinations hosting carnival-type events. The coverage BHW 2015 achieved provided tremendous exposure for Bermuda internationally among a new audience, particularly via social media channels.
- Blue Sky Flights, which enables visitors to experience sensational views of the island during aerial tours. This experience targets those adventure-seeking travellers looking for a thrilling way to see the island, while building on Bermuda’s overall tour offerings.
A number of new initiatives and programmes were also launched throughout the year, from the new product and service offerings in Hub 1 (St. George’s and St. David’s), the Bermuda Arts & Crafts Fair, Bermuda’s Best Fish Sandwich Competition, and the Uncover the Arts programme through to programmes initiated for Sports Training Camps, Executive Women’s Golf Association Golf School, Antigua-Bermuda Classic Regatta, International Women’s Keelboat Championship, and the Plein Air Festival.
A comprehensive ROI review of BTA-funded initiatives was also completed in 2015. The ROI review measures the effectiveness of the investment application through room nights generated, visitor spend and media investment, and has enabled us to evaluate BTA-supported events even more effectively. Through our ROI reviews the BTA has been able to determine an event’s success against objectives, together with assessing likelihood of future investment support and calculating the overall economic impact generated to the island.
Experience Investment Programme
Round 3 of the Experience Investment Programme opened on 3 September and applications closed on 2 October. This round covered experiences and events primarily designed to take place from January – December 2016. Outreach and education activities during the quarter to disseminate information to the community included a series of lunch and learn information sessions as well as a pre-application workshop. We also achieved further alignment between product/experience investments and the BTA’s sales and marketing programme during this latest applications round. In particular, many of the new supported experiences will provide additional content and visual assets for BTA’s promotional initiatives across traditional and digital media. Experiences approved to receive marketing support, rather than funding, will benefit from extended exposure via the BTA’s public relations and social media channels locally and overseas.
Overall, a grand total of approximately $2.3 million has been invested in home grown visitor experiences since 2014.
In all, we received 61 applications of which 38 were approved for support. This latest round will result in over $600,000 of funding being provided to the successful applications next year. Overall, a grand total of approximately $2.3 million has been invested in homegrown visitor experiences since 2014.
Sports Tourism Highlights
As part of our Sports Tourism strategy, the Product & Experiences division established BTA’s new partnership with the National Sports Centre (NSC), which has the potential to extend the sports team training camps opportunity for Bermuda year-round by incentivising teams to organise training and playing tournaments here. The incentive is that the BTA will pay for usage time at the NSC pool, field, etc. So far, over a dozen teams have been confirmed for training in Bermuda under the new agreement, including the Olympic swim team from Denmark.
The golf strategy and related events are bearing fruit in terms of driving demand, on-island spend and overall ROI. Several golf tournaments took place successfully during the quarter, with high levels of participant feedback and satisfaction. These included:
In addition, and as part of further progress on our strategy targeting women golfers, we confirmed a two-year agreement with the Executive Women Golfers Association (EWGA) for a new women’s group golf vacations and tournament play for Bermuda’s shoulder season (March 2016 and 2017). EWGA is a US-based national golf organisation for businesswomen with chapters for ladies in almost every state as well as four countries around the world, including Bermuda. They will golf at a variety of courses in Bermuda and local female golfers will be included throughout the rounds played.
Overall, assessment as at the end of the fourth quarter showed that our golf strategy generated almost 3,800 room nights, with an estimated economic impact of $2.14 million.
Our strategy to position Bermuda as the preeminent choice for global sailing events – and also strategically leverage the America’s Cup for the long term – continued to yield effective results through the year.
New events included the Amlin Moth Regatta (5-11 December 2015), M32 Winter Series (January – April 2016) and the Viper North America Race (14-19 November 2016). We also confirmed support for the inaugural Antigua Bermuda Race, organised by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in association with Antigua Sailing Week, for May 2017. This new regatta will feature Bermuda’s “Spirit of Bermuda” racing the schooner “America”, the replica of the original winner of the America’s Cup.
The RC44 Championship Regatta is also a new event and confirmed to take place in Bermuda from 2-6 March 2016. This event represents additional visitors in a historically soft tourism period. Our operational team includes representatives from the BTA, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Bermuda Business Development Agency and the Hamilton Princess Hotel. The RC44 Championship Tour is an international sailing circuit of events held in various locations worldwide. There are 14 teams from 10 countries that compete in the league. For this fleet racing series, teams sail high performance RC44 boats designed by globally- recognised America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts. Each team comprises an owner, three amateurs and four professional sailors. The professionals are all either America’s Cup or Olympic sailors. The owners of the RC44 vessels are high-level business executives and entrepreneurs of billionaire status, primarily from Europe and the US.
All of the above new events are set to join other key existing regattas, e.g. Annapolis Bermuda Ocean Race (10-17 June 2016) and the Newport Bermuda Race (17-25 June 2016), with the goal of expanding Bermuda’s sailing calendar to help drive business year-round.
As a regular feature on the sailing circuit, the Marion to Bermuda yacht race celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015 and brought 45 boats to Bermuda, an increase of 35 percent on the 2013 event, and over 330 skippers and crew. This event has now been elevated to a Signature Experience, as the organisers continue to provide significant ROI, including in terms of the quality of visiting participants and ongoing addition of features targeting a new generation of sailors for long-term sustainability.
During the latter part of the year we commenced work on Legacy Activities – a post-America’s Cup (AC) strategy. This is designed to leverage AC’s presence by developing a sailing calendar of new and existing visitor-focused events and experiences. The strategy includes establishing experiences in four categories: events/regattas, learn-to-sail, sports spring break (sailing) and repositioning (winter) sailing opportunities. The calendar specifically presents either large-scale spectator events or individual/group participative opportunities.
Cultural & Leisure Highlights
CEO Bill Hanbury describes the BTA’s role as “setting the table for growth”. Nowhere better does this apply to the Product & Experiences division as we work to create an environment where entrepreneurs and small businesses can go to work, creating new experiences in the culture and leisure industry in Bermuda. These are the people who have the passion, the ideas and the potential to turn the tide for tourism and they’ll create jobs along the way. Here we cover some highlights from new events that took place during the course of 2015.
The inaugural Plein Air Festival in November 2015 saw 25 artists from overseas come to Bermuda to paint at scenic outdoor locations throughout the island, visit local museums, enjoy local food culture and interact with local artists. Feedback from local and international participants was overwhelmingly positive. The Bermuda Plein Air Festival successfully demonstrated its alignment with BTA’s goal to attract new, relevant niche or special interest groups during what is becoming Bermuda’s peak season for art, culture and sport.
The Bermuda International Town Crier Competition saw 25 Town Criers on-island from the UK and Canada. Accompanied by their spouses, friends and family, the Criers entertained overseas visitors and locals while competing for the illustrious Town Crier champion title.
As a pre-event to Harbour Nights, local vendors, with the support of the BTA and the Corporation of Hamilton, organised the new Bermuda Arts & Crafts Fair for visitors and locals during the month of May. A total of 18 local vendors were able to showcase and sell homegrown merchandise early in the season. As visitors look to immerse themselves in Bermuda culture, this event allowed guests to mix and mingle with locals, purchase locally made products and experience some of Bermuda’s rich cultural traditions.
Overall, assessment as at the end of the fourth quarter showed that our golf strategy generated almost 3,800 room nights, with an estimated economic impact of $2.14 million.
With so many cultural attractions available in the East End, a Cultural Passport, which is currently in its pilot phase, was introduced at the end of 2015. For one price, the passport gives visitors access to the World Heritage Centre, Fort St. Catherine, the Deliverance, Tucker House, St. Peter’s Church and the Globe Hotel Museum in St. George’s and Carter House in St. David’s. As the National Tourism Plan identifies highlighting Bermuda’s cultural history as part of the cultural tourism strategy, the East End Cultural Passport supports efforts to increase visitation and expose travellers to the rich cultural assets in Hub 1.
Recognising that Bermuda has the potential to appeal to travellers for year-round experiences, the Product & Experiences division focused on exploring seasonal offerings to target specific audiences in the culture and leisure market. Building on the existing framework of experiences available, we approached the separation of seasons strategically to add to those experiences on-island.
Uncover the Arts
As part of our strategy to look at the slower season of November to March as an opportunity to focus on Bermuda’s cultural and culinary-focused offerings, 18 new tours and offerings were added during this period to provide visitors with a diverse range of activities to experience on-island, which comes under the title of ‘Uncover the Arts’. Conducted in partnership with the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, some of these new experiences included eco tours exploring Cooper’s Island, culinary experiences at Sweet Saak Bakery, and cultural tours visiting Bermuda’s forts, St. David’s Island and scenic sites in Hamilton.
Sizzling Summer Programme
Running from May – October, the Sizzling Summer programme showcases on-island experiences from East to West to drive visitor spending and their exposure to various activities. The new “must do” section in the revised Sizzling Summer brochure was very well received by visitors as they looked to maximise their experience of the wide-ranging cultural events and activities available on-island. Eight new experiences were added to this year’s Sizzling Summer programme, which included:
- Hydrobike Bermuda, Daniel’s Head Beach Park
- Bonfires on the Beach, Snorkel Park Beach
- Haunted History, a walking tour in ye Olde Ghost Town, King’s Square
- St. Gorgeous Sundays, Tobacco Bay
- St. David’s Beach Bus
- Blue Sky flights, St. David’s Island
- Authentic Bermudian In-home dining experiences
- Gunpowder Plot Re-enactment
Food Culture Strategy
In August 2015, the Product & Experiences division conducted Bermuda’s first Best Fish Sandwich Competition in conjunction with the Operations/Communications team. This was used as the latest vehicle to highlight local food culture and identify locally rated recommendations and options within the genre for visitors. Over 40 restaurants and outlets participated and follow-up reports indicated that business increased by as much as 30 percent in the two-week competition period for participants. https://vimeo.com/136532665 To support BTA’s culinary strategy, this year’s Restaurant Weeks added new features aimed at promoting Bermuda’s food culture and increasing awareness of it overseas and locally via social media. The first addition had 30 of the 44 participating restaurants – the highest number of total participants to date – providing Bermuda-inspired menus and fusions of local ingredients incorporated into meals. The new People’s Choice feature encouraged participants to vote for their favourite Bermuda-inspired menu and share their experience through an online voting process. Through the extended online exposure/engagement, diners and chefs received prizes via the People’s Choice Award.
Hub 1 (St. George’s & St. David’s) Development
Implementation of the Cultural Tourism Plan for St. George’s and St. David’s began with completing key first-phase objectives: the formation of the Hub 1 Cultural Steering Committee and governance structure, establishing the core responsibilities and scope of work for a Cultural Tourism Manager (CTM) for the Hub, the subsequent appointment of a CTM and approvals of a prioritised action plan, which includes revenue-generating proposals for programme sustainability. The Hub 1 Cultural Steering Committee’s working sub-groups met regularly through the year to set core priorities, which were: volunteer strategy, new cultural experiences, town enhancements and sustainability, and community outreach. The Steering Committee also focused on ongoing fundraising activities. The BTA reviewed the list of existing and new Hub 1 experiences that were proposed for 2015, with the purpose of selecting for investment those which would be potential “anchor” events for visitor appeal, in turn helping to drive visitor arrivals and spending, and boosting Bermuda’s profile. As a result, four new BTA-supported experiences were added to the activity in Hub 1:
- Haunted History, a walking tour in ye olde ghost town – which has since increased frequency to two nights per week, based on positive customer response and demand
- The Gunpowder plot re-enactment (240th anniversary)
- General Assembly Re-enactments
- Baking with Sweet Saak
In addition, the BTA’s support of a new, hop-on/hop-off “beach bus” transportation service during the summer was designed to give visitors easier access to the many rich cultural and beach assets in St. David’s. The Hub 1 Steering Committee, in conjunction with Hub 1 cultural partners, also introduced the East End Cultural Passport, which allows visitors to access multiple cultural sites in Hub 1 for one set price.
Visitor Information Centre (VIC) Development
The implementation of the enhanced Visitor Information Services strategy and phased transition to in-house VIC management began with the soft opening of the Dockyard Visitor Information Centre (VIC) on 1 April, in time for the first occasional cruise ship callers of the 2015 season. This marks a significant implementation step in our phased plan to manage all VICs. A total of seven part-time seasonal team members have been recruited to staff the Dockyard VIC. Services are focused on providing impartial, pertinent visitor information, details on new and long-standing Bermuda experiences, and include sales of transportation passes.
Cruise Ship Strategy
Industry outreach through the year has shown that interest among cruise lines in Bermuda’s attractiveness as a premier destination remains very strong. Ongoing dialogue with potential new cruise line partners continued, as well as meetings with the Bermuda Government to explore opportunities and provide input on infrastructure matters. This included North Channel improvements, consideration of port modifications at the East End, which could expand cruise business opportunities, and general upgrades to existing piers.
Members from the Product & Experiences division attended the SeaTrade Miami conference in March, which is among the largest international industry events for the cruise ship sector. We were able to continue discussions with various cruise line partners – including, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival – about ongoing matters as well as opportunities around the America’s Cup (AC). We were also able to make contact with the new leadership/CEOs of Princess Cruises, Celebrity and Holland America Line, following a round of senior changes at the cruise lines.
In September, we attended the SeaTrade Europe conference to hold meetings and continue outreach with target cruise lines and homeport management contacts. Discussion highlights included sessions with Viking Cruises about new Atlantic itineraries and Carnival Corporation about opportunities with their range of brands, e.g. Princess, Seabourn, P&O, and Cunard. Discussions also took place with Disney Cruise Line.
Subsequent to these meetings, BTA has held extensive dialogue with five cruise lines who expressed interest in planning charters or America’s Cup itineraries – both UK-based and US-based.
Through 2015, strategic targeting of premium and luxury brands has resulted in 50 confirmed occasional callers by high-end cruise brands for 2016, up from 35 in 2015 – an additional 15 calls representing a 43percent increase. Five of these new calls will be to St. George’s. Approximately 407,000 cruise visitors are anticipated for 2016, compared to 370,000 for 2015. In 2014, there were 356,000 cruise visitor arrivals.
Industry outreach through the year has shown that interest among cruise lines in Bermuda’s attractiveness as a premier destination remains very strong.