The Bermuda Tourism Authority, the country's official destination marketing organization, has rolled out an ambitious five-year National Tourism Plan aimed at making the island more competitive for visitor dollars, and that includes positioning itself as a major destination for group and incentive business. The move is a significant shift for the island, whose tourism economy has coasted along for years on its stellar reputation as a golf and beach destination.
"We still have incredible golf and fantastic beaches, but our new plan sets us on a path to 2025 and utilizes all the other assets that we offer, like cultural tourism, maritime history and food traditions," said Glenn Jones, the BTA's new chief experience development officer. "We want to create the right experience for the right audience; and to make it relevant to meeting groups, we are short-listing experiences that we believe will be a good match when they are not in a meeting, like our African diaspora heritage trail."
Bermuda had three straight years of increased tourism growth through the end of 2018. Total visitor arrivals last year set a new record, with 770,683, up 11 percent over 2017 and the highest since 2002. But it is group business that Simon Boden, director of sales and business development for the BTA, believes will really drive tourism growth and solidify Bermuda's reputation as an incentive destination. The National Tourism Plan calls for growing the percentage of group business from 25 percent of room nights to 30 percent, primarily by increasing market share in the slower months of November through March.
"Focusing specifically on group business is something we have not done in the past, but it now is an absolute focus," said Boden. "There were years when we had a lot of groups and years when we didn't. I think with this new focus, and the new energy on the island, particularly with new hotels coming online, we are really positioned well."
On the hotel front, the 92-room Rosewood Bermuda, formerly known as Rosewood Tucker's Point, reopened in June 2018 on 240 acres following a $25 million renovation that included upgrades to its meeting space and dining options. The 410-room Hamilton Princess & Beach Club recently wrapped up a three-year, $100 million top-down overhaul of all guest rooms and public spaces, which included the addition of 43 suites, a new Exhale Spa and a new restaurant by Food Network star chef Marcus Samuelsson.
Bermuda currently has approximately 2,400 hotel rooms, but a spike in luxury hotel development projects will give the island a serious injection of glamour, further upping its game in the group market. Currently under construction is the $325 million St. Regis Hotel Bermuda, which is set to open in early 2021. Located in St. George, within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the property will feature a full-service spa, several dining options, a casino and 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The St. Regis will be followed by a 77-room Ritz-Carlton Reserve, one of only four resorts in that brand's portfolio.