Communication with stakeholders, whether internal or external, is imperative to building trust in the organisation, because people are influenced by those they trust. Trust is not awarded, it is earned.
The Operations division was tasked with building an organisational foundation on which the BTA can flourish. From finance, IT and facilities, to recruitment, performance management and team building, encompassing corporate communications, community and stakeholder relations and training and service standards, best practice processes, policies and procedures were identified, developed, implemented and aligned with the BTA’s corporate culture.
Prior to commencing operations on 1 April 2014, Operations was responsible for completing the onboarding of staff transferring from the Bermuda Department of Tourism, while, facility-wise, managing the build-out for the Bermuda Hospitality Institute’s (BHI) office space and coordinating its successful integration into the BTA’s premises. Other activities that took place within the first nine months included a legal review of the BTA’s US corporate structure in regards to self-funding and commercial activities, particularly as they relate to operations external to Bermuda. In this regard, given the BTA’s mandate to raise revenue, Operations completed an organisational assessment of the NYC operations, clarifying its current standing in the US from a business and tax perspective, and recommended an approach that balances US compliance with BTA’s business goals.
The BTA’s Crisis Communication Plan was created and, during the course of two hurricanes, was implemented to prepare our operations and communicate with stakeholders and local partners sitting on the Emergency Measures Organisation. The plan served the organisation extremely well both pre- and post-storms. It resulted in positive feedback from stakeholders who were impressed with the level of communication they and the media received from the BTA in advance of, during and after the storm – particularly as it related to the consistent messaging conveyed that Bermuda was quickly back open for business.
BTA completed the submission process to gain DMO Accreditation, which involved documenting 57 mandatory standards across 16 domains including: Governance, Finance, Human Resources, Destination Development, Innovation, Sales, Marketing, Brand Management and Stakeholder Relationships. As many policies or processes were still being actively created during our start-up phase, the application is expected to be approved in the Spring 2015 review cycle.
From its inception, BTA was conceived to be a high performance Destination Marketing Organisation. The HR strategy supports this laser focus on building and sustaining a performance-driven culture, from recruitment and compensation, to training and development, teambuilding and individual performance management. At time of hiring, all BTA employees are offered compensation packages consisting of a base salary, established within a market-based salary range for similar positions, and a performance incentive. Assuming an employee’s individual performance objectives have been met, their incentive will bring them within the mid-to-upper range for their position, while exceeding objectives enables them to realise a more significant payout. BTA organisational objectives are also factored into the performance incentive calculation: these include team goals and, for 2015, core competencies.
It’s important to recognise that many, if not most, of BTA’s employees have never participated in a performance incentive programme. In order to manage expectations and help maintain perspective, internal communication throughout the fiscal year focused on individual performance aligned with organisational objectives. The message delivered and received, through an Employee Retreat and numerous teambuilding activities, was “We work hard, collectively and individually, to make the BTA a success and many outcomes are out of our control. However, as a Destination Management Organisation, our job is to drive results whether directly or through influence.”
Human Resources also introduced BTA’s employee portal, allowing employees to self-manage a number of HR functions, thus freeing up resources to focus on more strategic goals.
To meet internal user needs, Operations formed the ad-hoc BTA IT Advisory Group (BiTag). Consisting of internal stakeholders in the Bermuda and New York offices, BiTag was tasked with ensuring the BTA’s information technology infrastructure supported the organisation’s drive for business excellence and efficiency through:
- Conscientiously reviewing and proposing aspects of information technologies that can maximise benefits to the organisation as a whole, in cost-effective ways
- Tracking IT programme development, programme changes, metrics and achievements so BTA makes informed decisions on key initiatives
- Collaborating and suggesting risk mitigation as necessary to improve employee usage satisfaction, and to focus on better deliveries to internal and external customers
Other accomplishments include:
- Commissioned an IT Audit to identify the root cause(s) of any ongoing issues and identify optimum solution(s)
- Developed the BTA’s Technology Plan addressing BTA’s current state, future technology and IT infrastructure needs, and procurement and replacement strategies
- Completion of Voice, Data and Video migration for both Bermuda and New York office locations. The New York office IT equipment refresh was received, and deployment will be completed in Q1 2015, finalising the IT transition process initiated when the BTA commenced operations in April 2014
Recognising both a need and an opportunity, BTA recruited a part-time, temporary Stakeholder Relations Advisor to further strengthen partnerships and communications with industry stakeholders throughout the local community. This resource resulted in achieving the following tasks:
- The aforementioned completion of the BTA’s Crisis Communication Plan
- Development and implementation of a political advocacy strategy, addressing bipartisan communication with political stakeholders and the expansion of our nonpartisan communication efforts
- Completion of an advocacy section for the BTA’s website (posted in Q1) in alignment with DMO best practices
- Formalised schedule for the release of performance data to stakeholders and the public
The Operations division was tasked with monitoring and reporting to local media for print, broadcast and online coverage of local tourism press releases and editorial generated by the BTA or by external entities. All coverage identified was uploaded to the BTA corporate website for easy access by stakeholders and interested parties. As part of the on-island communications strategy, a local tourism appreciation video and social media campaign, #lovemybda, was introduced. The campaign went viral upon its release in Q3.
It’s important to recognise that many, if not most, of BTA’s employees have never participated in a performance incentive programme.
Training & Standards
As part of the BTA Training & Standards mandate, Operations conducted and completed a comprehensive review of the initial Product & Experiences grant submissions to determine applicant knowledge gaps, resulting in the launch of Lunch & Learn Sessions throughout Q3 to prepare interested parties for a subsequent round of funding applications. The widely embraced sessions covered topics such as: understanding Bermuda’s visitor expectations, forming partnerships for greater impact, developing business plans and integrating online services with business strategies. Ultimately, the sessions met two key objectives:
- Showcased the goals of the P&E team
- Demonstrated the BTA’s commitment to bring stakeholders together for the good of all
The end result of this project was a higher quality of applications for the last round of P&E applicants in Q4. An additional key objective met in the area of Training & Standards was the development of BTA’s National Service Standard Programme (NSSP), introduced in December 2014. After months of actively engaging stakeholders across industry sectors – gathering input and feedback, reporting back results and sharing potential outcomes – two programmes were identified as the foundation of a service standard training initiative to be deployed across the tourism/hospitality value chain. As a direct result of this inclusive process, the programme has received industry-wide support from all sectors. Administered through the BHI, the NSSP includes a customised certification programme leading to the obtainment of a Bermuda Tourism Ambassador designation for individuals who complete the requirements. Employer-driven in the first year, it is included as a requirement for recipients of BTA grant funding from the Product & Experiences team.
Income to the BTA comprises two key elements, which are:
- Government Grant – received in equal quarterly amounts.
- Tourism authority fee – The tourism authority fee is a fee that predates the inception of the BTA and is collected from hotel guests at a rate of 2.5 per cent of the room price. Hoteliers then pass along the collection of this fee to the BTA, as the law requires. The finance team works with all of the on-island hotels to ensure all overdue taxes are collected. The BTA is very pleased with the level of compliance from hoteliers who collect the tax, and approximately 99 per cent of the projected hotel tax revenue for 2014 has been collected and is therefore up-to-date.
The finance team works with all of the on-island hotels to ensure all overdue fees are collected. The tourism authority fee is a fee that predates the inception of the BTA and is collected from hotel guests at a rate of 2.5 per cent of the room price. Hoteliers then pass along the collection of this fee to the BTA, as the law requires. The BTA is very pleased with the level of compliance from hoteliers who collect the fee, and approximately 99 per cent of the projected tourism authority fee revenue for 2014 has been collected and is therefore up-to-date.
Direct Costs / Expenditure
The BTA expenditure predominantly relates to structure, communications, premises and administration costs, professional fees, and expenses incurred by the Sales & Marketing and Product & Experiences divisions.
The key areas of spend during the year for the Sales & Marketing division were online media/Social media and Partnership funding in relation to the ‘Proper Fun’ media strategy. The Island hosted a number of key events, including the ASTA Conference, X Factor, Torchbearers and the Partnership Summit.
A number of payments were made during the course of 2014 against the Product & Experience fund, the predominant ones being the Newport/Bermuda Race, Spirit of Bermuda, Argo Gold Cup, and the CAIS Football Tournament. To date, the fund has paid over $800,000 from the initial accepted applications of $930,000. The balance mainly represents final payments due on completion of the Grant conditions. Costs associated with the new National Service Standard Programme were also incurred. The Bermuda Tourism Authority enjoyed a rent-free period at the Washington Mall Phase II property, which ceased on 31 July, 2014.
Other direct costs for the BTA related to structure, general and administration costs for staff remuneration, communications, general expenses and professional fees. Transitional costs in relation to both the set-up of the BTA and the operational costs incurred in the period between 16 December 2013 and 31 March 2014 are included within the expenditure. Further information on staff and board compensation can be found here.
The Island hosted a number of key events, including the ASTA Conference, X Factor, Torchbearers and the Partnership Summit.