America’s Cup is an airport ‘game changer’

Posted 01/22/2015
The Royal Gazette
by Sarah Lagan

Higher visitor numbers during the America's Cup, a certified tourism ambassador programme, and job prospects were some of the areas tackled during the Tourism Summit's afternoon session yesterday.

Chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency Ross Webber said that Bermuda needed more flexibility in terms of pricing for flights to the Island going forward. He said; "Airlift, as far as its concerned from a business perspective, is hugely important but also certainty is important. We need to do an awful lot more now with the airlines to ensure that we have guaranteed flights and guaranteed routes to ensure our business partners know they can come back to Bermuda. It's a very important point from a business perspective.

"We also need to do an awful lot more with British Airways in particular at the back of the bus to get increased airlift. The front part of the bus is fine where most of the business goes but nowadays as margins decrease you will find businesses travellers looking to use the back of the bus to fly to Bermuda. And the way the price structure is right now it is a deterrent and people are not coming to Bermuda as much as they would. From a business perspective they are going to use Skype."

During a panel discussion led by BTA's communications chief Glenn Jones, there was much discussion about the benefits of a new airport which was announced in November of last year. Little was mentioned about the contentious decision by Government to choose Canadian Commercial Corporation for the project but much was mentioned about the overdue need for a facility.

General manager of Airport Operations Aaron Adderley said: "I think it [the America's Cup] is going to be a game changer for us. Over the past few years it's been very difficult to have air services development type conversations with the airlines because we are dealing with results that have not been a product we need it to be. What the America's Cup is going to do is provide a stimulus effect at the airport. We are already in discussions with the airlines about what sort of capacity we are going to have to put in place to support the event and the lead up to the event.

"When we go out to market to try and secure the financing we are going to have to be very influential and convincing in our discussion because we are going to show numbers that support a 20 or year 30 year decline and we are going to have to convince managers that we are going to turn things around. The America's Cup is going to help us in that argument. The other thing that is going to work in our favour is the hotel developments that are about to take place. All those things coming together will all make our case a lot easier."

Bermuda Tourism Authority chief operating officer Karla Lacey outlined the National Service Standards Programme where participants can achieve a Certified Tourism Ambassador designation. The CTA is a recognised DMO Certification.

Some 300 have already registered to become ambassadors while there is capacity for a further 200 to sign up. The purpose of the programme is to help visitors get the most out of their destination while helping to promote local business.

A prerequisite to gaining the certification is the Blue Flag 101. The Blue Flag Ambassador programme has been running for more than a decade. The course, Blue Flag 101, has been condensed into 12 hours as opposed to five weeks and involves annual refresher courses.

Ms Lacey said: "Turning people into tourism ambassadors is about building pride in the destination and a deep level of knowledge about what Bermuda has to offer."

As for business prospects and jobs in the run up to, and during, the America's Cup, executive director at the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation Erica Smith said it is essential that Bermuda's businesses position themselves adequately.

"We are hearing excitement from small businesses and the opportunity for them to participate. I think it is about being able to get that contact or network or be positioned enough to be to take advantage of it. We have already started to collaborate with the organisation to talk about how we can take advantage of the opportunities. We are positioning our team to being one of those connectors."

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