Created: Mar 06, 2022 5:08 p.m.
Charles Jeffers II, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Wayne Caines, chairman of the Bermuda Tourism Authority (file photo)
The reopening of the island’s largest resort is “essential” to the recovery of the tourism industry, the chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority said today.
Charles Jeffers II pointed out that the number of hotel beds in Bermuda had fallen to less than 2,000 for the first time in “recent tourism history” and that the 1,800 rooms available represented only 43% of the figure for 1990.
Mr Jeffers said: “Although the inventory of holiday rentals on the island has increased over the past few decades, the volume has not compensated for the loss of available hotel rooms and these visitors tend to favor leisure and not group travel.
“This hampers our ability to create demand for group and leisure activities. This limits vital expenses on the island, which would contribute to the income of our taxis, vehicle rental companies, tour operators, artists, restaurants and other businesses directly or indirectly related to tourism in Bermuda.
Mr Jeffers added: “The inclusion of Fairmont Southampton’s 593 guest rooms and conference rooms opens the island to more group activity, stimulates investment opportunities and supports demand in other local hotel properties. .
“Furthermore, with no timetable for the reopening of the Fairmont, we are challenged to plan for group business sales and increased air travel, which underpin so many elements of our tourism growth strategy.”
Mr Jeffers said the BTA had engaged in training and development programs to prepare Bermudians for an expected increase in visitor arrivals over the next few years in collaboration with the private sector.
He added: “We encourage anyone who wants to be part of what promises to be a vibrant tourism future to register with the Department of Workforce Development for jobs and opportunities in the industry. .”
BTA chairman Wayne Caines said the island was on track for a “tourism renaissance” with the reopening of the hotel.
He added that conversations between the government and hotel investors were a “crucial part” of increasing tourism.
He said: “The reopening of the Fairmont Southampton will be a major boon to the industry, delivering a host of benefits to Bermuda’s economy.
“Initially, the planned redevelopment phase will create construction employment opportunities and inject cash outlays into businesses beyond those categorized as traditional hospitality.
“Finalizing a timetable to reopen Bermuda’s renowned resort, the Fairmont Southampton, is a crucial next step in achieving this goal.”
The two were speaking after it was suggested that a key part of a rift between Prime Minister Curtis Dickinson, the former finance minister, was a government sweetener for the $376 million overhaul of the Fairmont Southampton.
A major source of tension between David Burt and Curtis Dickinson, who quit the finance post days before last week’s budget unveiling, reportedly centered on a “financial statement” – a balance sheet for a proposed company – for the Fairmont Southampton.
An SFP lists an organization’s assets, liabilities, and equity and provides a financial overview.
The statement was among several flashpoints that triggered Mr Dickinson’s exit from the Cabinet.
Mr Burt said last week that Mr Dickinson had agreed a $50 million guarantee with owners Gencom for the Fairmont Southampton in 2019.
Mr. Burt erroneously added that he said that in the recent budget statement.
He referred to a 2019 deal, but did not give a figure for the guarantee.
But the government said in March last year that it had not committed to providing “any form of financial guarantee” for the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton.