Bermuda’s 2012 year-end tourism statistics were announced on April 9 at a press conference with Bermuda Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, Shawn Crockwell. The Minister began with an extensive breakdown of where the island nation saw struggles in 2012, amounting to an overall 6% decline in visitors from 2011 to 2012, and commented on the outlook for 2013, which so far appears to be more of the same.
Minister Crockwell addressed the local press and then held a Q&A, which you can watch below.
His best explanation for the decline was that Bermuda’s tourism season continues to “shrink” – the summer weeks of heaviest travel have shortened from the once longer peak season.
Crockwell also pointed to a 50% drop in convention attendees as a major factor behind the decline, but upon further inspection of the data, it’s clear convention goers make up such a tiny portion of visitors that this isn’t something worth fixating on.
To be fair, the Minister just came into power this year with the election, but it seems like there is a temptation to react to annual trends in a short-sighted reactionary way. From the Minister’s report, he should also focus on the steady decline (over a decade) of airline seats. He said they will work with Air Canada, but what is being done to prevent current seats from being lost? Additionally, will the government harness a decade’s worth of overall cruise arrival growth? A year-to-year reactionary course will not prove to be fruitful.
While the extensive data available certainly presents a shortening season as a reality, is it the cause for the industry’s overall decline? Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg (shorter season or lower demand)?
The decline of Bermuda’s product offering may have caused the season to shrink. It seems Crockwell’s strategy of synthetically lengthening the season contradicts the scarcity creation strategy held by some on his own Tourism Board.
As I told you in our previous post where I made my social marketing agency available to Bermuda, members of Bermuda’s Tourism Board have rightly pointed out that scarcity plays to their advantage. Making the Island something common citizens abroad can “aspire” to attain is important, making discounting a poor strategy long-term for peak customers. The same principle applies to the short “peak” season where beds are scarce and Bermuda is loaded with upper class, high-paying visitors.
The shorter Bermuda’s main season is, the fewer bed nights available, and the easier it is to build a premium brand around that limited capacity. Once those limited rooms are filled and the targeted season levels off, the tourism authority can expand the number of beds (and the length of the season) on their own terms.
That’s why Minister Crockwell should have instead said that the shortening summer season is an advantage, not a threat.
Yes, it is true that the peak season began in April/May and extended to October/November just a few years ago (now only really spanning June-September), the peak season should be targeted through a different strategy lens than the rest of the year.
Save discounting for the off-season, and do it through a real social media strategy, not just one predicated on benign pictures of beaches and flowers that bring in the most followers, “likes” or fans. The best social media campaigns are powered by great deals.
Let Social Traffic Inc. market Bermuda as a destination every 3 and 4-star tourist must visit once in a lifetime for a 5-star travel experience (at 3 and 4-star rates in the off season), leveraging the power of conversation marketing to spread the word. Bermuda would become a place for tourists to discover via online social channels championed by participants in the local economy (touched on in a previous post) – pushing into a website where they can compare hotel costs to secure the best all inclusive Bermuda deals.
Three and 4-star tourists in pursuit of 5-star deals would drive occupancies in the non-peak season putting upward pressure on demand for availability throughout the peak season. Stories about the rich and famous holidaying in Bermuda through the peak season would produce the best social media campaigns for motivating fans and followers to get out of their chairs to grab credit cards in order to secure time-sensitive deals for the upcoming non-peak season.
Bermuda’s future can be bright and prosperous if the right tools are utilized to once again build their brand as a premium tourist destination but the world is experiencing an age of change that’s altering the definition of luxury. An experienced social marketer like Social Traffic could take the operation in a new direction to meet those changes from the crossroads they currently find themselves.
I’m interested to know what the people of Bermuda think. How would you revive the Bermuda brand as a tourist destination?