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Bermuda joins Caribbean Tourism Organisation

NEW YORK – Onetime go-it-alone destination Bermuda<.> has joined the Caribbean<.> Tourism Organisation (CTO), furthering a process of regional cooperation started by the Bermuda Hotel Association`s earlier decision to join the…

NEW YORK – Onetime go-it-alone destination Bermuda<.> has joined the Caribbean<.> Tourism Organisation (CTO), furthering a process of regional cooperation started by the Bermuda Hotel Association`s earlier decision to join the Caribbean Hotel Association. The step comes as air arrivals on the exclusive island destination continue a four-year decline.

According to director of tourism Richard Caulderon, membership in the now 33-nation CTO allows the British territory to avail itself of the tourism group`s network and research expertise while maintaining a degree of traditional marketing independence.

`We recognise the importance of Bermuda having a separate image and being independent in how we target our visitors,` he said. `However, we can share information with destinations in the Caribbean that also have a lot to offer … The thinking by myself, tourism minister David H. Allen, the Tourist Board and the BHA is that we can have our cake and eat it, too,` Caulderon added.

Michael Youngman, director of marketing at CTO`s New York office, noted Bermuda has been engaged informally in the group`s activities for years.

`We`ve often had them as observers at our conferences, and tried to bring them in at overseas trade shows,` he said. `This is a very logical progression; Bermuda`s a good fit.`

The move comes as overall tourist arrivals in Bermuda continue to decline year-to-year, while cruise passenger visits steadily climb and comprise an ever greater percentage of total figures.

The approximately 550,000 arrivals in 1999 closely mirror rates for 10 years ago (549,000), after fluctuating from a low of 506,237 in 1992 to the most recent high of 571,675 in 1996.

Overall arrivals have slowly declined since, according to Bermuda Department of Tourism records.

Officials denied the decline precipitated CTO membership. `Bermuda`s numbers are still not quite where they should be,` said Caulderon. `However, I think there`s been a shift in [our] emphasis and focus from pure arrivals to expenditures.

Bermudian hoteliers, restaurateurs and other suppliers on the island, rather than clamouring for more bodies, are interested in attracting greater disposable incomes. That`s been the clarion call for quite a few tourism destinations throughout the world who are attempting to cut down on ecological impact without sacrificing too much economically.

In addition, the island has seen several of its top hotels, including the Marriott and a Club Med, shutter their doors in recent years. `We recognise that with a lack of accommodations, arrivals numbers will drop,` said Caulderon. `But our real focus is to increase the bed bank with quality rooms to capture that high-end customer with disposable funds.`

To that end, the Bermuda government has passed a `Hotels Concession Act` to encourage redevelopment and investment. Unnamed developers are now in negotiations to reopen most of the major properties, potentially adding up to 600 rooms by 2003, said Caulderon.

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