Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy 400th Birthday Bermuda!

"Bermuda is another world - 700 miles at sea.
And the way the people greet you - is like a friendly melody.
To touch a flower in the morning - to listen to a honey bee.
To hear a bird who sings a song - just to say that he is free." - Hubert Smith

Happy Birthday Bermuda!! 400 years old! As May 24th approaches, BERMUDA DAY, it is a special time for all who have lived and prospered in our pink sand paradise! I have often said, if you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere. Like modern day pirates we have plundered our way to a way of life not many in the world would dream of! Yes, Bermuda truly is... another world!

Our "neverland" existence has afforded us many luxuries. Untilmost  recently, jobs were plentiful and most Bermudians have lived the life of Reilly (who is he anyway?). 90 minutes to New York City, if you catch that early morning American Airlines flight, you can be in mid-town Manhattan well before noon! How many people on the east cost would complain over that commute? Bermudians have access to most airports on the eastern U.S. seaboard and with regular flights to the U.K. and Canada, it is pretty tough to not find someplace to go! Which leads us to a thought. If it's so easy to leave, and most Bermudians can't wait to leave... are we truly that blessed to live here?

Ahhh Bermuda, for all of its rich beauty and heritage, most Bermudians still need to "get off the rock." The funny thing about that is, we make it easy for Bermudians to leave, but are we doing everything in our power to attract people... tourists, to come to our little haven? What do we offer in competition with much cheaper locales in the Caribbean and Mexico? A cruise to Bermuda offers one port. A Caribbean cruise offers many ports, and if you choose the right cruise you can include Mexico on your vacation as well!  Bermuda beaches are beautiful, pink sand and loads of sun. It would be hard to find anything as beautiful. That said, should pink sand be the main reason for people to come here? What about the golf? Loads of choices for the avid golfer, some of the best in the world. More golf courses per square mile than anywhere else (fact). Still if golf is your game, isn't Myrtle Beach the place to go? Where do Bermudian golfers go on vacation? Yup... Myrtle Beach. Not many Bermudians hang around the rock for a Golf vacation. True, they play here all year long so why hang around? We've hosted the Grand Slam of Golf here for two years, and have failed miserably in attracting the tiger to even give us a sniff.

There are changes in the wind. Fairmont Hotels, which own 2 properties here, run one as a resort, the other as a business mans hotel, a City Center, so to speak. We have failed to fill other resorts beds in recent years - Sonesta Beach (failed), Club Med (Failed) and numerous other resort properties have or are failing as I write this. Yet we push on. Club Med is gone, to be replaced by another resort sometime soon. Sonesta is in it's third or fourth re-design (who keeps count) cutting room numbers down dramatically to appear as a profitable business. It's a head scratching, confusing and frustrating deal for a tourism department.

So where does this leave our venerable industry? Tourism at one time was built from the ground up. College weeks brought in wild and crazy kids from the east coast for a week of partying and getting to know Bermuda. College Weeks is gone. With it is the hope that these kids, and when they get married would come here on a honeymoon, and for future anniversaries filled with memories and families and legacies. All...gone. We have directed our market to a specific clientele. Have we? What clientele? Our marketing strategies have been repeated failures and if it wasn't for the conventioneer or the businessman 3 day stay, we'd probably have no industry at all. We do NOT compete with the Caribbean or Mexico on any level, simply because we can not offer what they offer.

Thus comes the plea for that NEW idea of bringing casinos to our shores. Surely such evils will be resisted. What next? Burlesque? Strip Bars and nude beaches? The conservative, religious right are cringing at the thought. Not on our island. Not today, not ever! We will not become another Negril or Cancun, no way... no how. Yet we are willing to let the tax cheating pirates from the U.S. insurance market flood our shores with their treasure laden coffers filled... hidden away from U.S. authorities, and employing many young Bermudians with no security for the future! That's right people. As fast as they came, they can leave and we can't stop them. If they need to move their treasure to another island to keep it safe... they will do so! What happens then? Our ever efficient government (Premier included) are testing the powers that be in Washington D.C. this week. Nothing like kissing a little backside! Pucker up guys!

This brings us back to tourism, our backup plan. What backup plan? Our #2 industry... Can someone please explain it to me? We're on course for some dramatic times my fellow bermudians. You have no idea.

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