WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22: I was just about to have a knee-jerk reaction to the Department of Tourism’s new ad campaign, when I had the good sense to stop. It wouldn’t be productive.

It also wouldn’t be fair to the Minister of Tourism Wayne Furbert and his hard working team at the Department of Tourism and to Bermuda’s National Tourism Board.

Attempting to reverse a 25-year trend of declining tourism numbers is the stuff of real heartbreak and a challenge of Herculean proportions.

It just doesn’t get fixed with a television commercial.  The advertising agency, Fuseideas has made an earnest effort to understand what makes Bermuda tick and what appealing aspects of our tourism product can be distilled in a 60 second commercial. It’s not easy.

Rather than focus so much on Bermuda’s incredible beaches and natural beauty in their print ads and commercials, Fuseideas decided to focus on the one compelling factor that they just couldn’t resist — the people of Bermuda. 

The ad guys, the “Mad Men”, fell for Bermudians hook, line and sinker.  They fell for your charm, your quirkiness, the irrepressible sine quo non that makes you Bermudian. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and there is nothing like Bermuda when it’s on top of its game. I fell for you, too.

Lame excuses

An advertising campaign however, cannot fix a lack of white glove service and enthusiasm. It can’t fix peeling paint and it can’t fix the expensive “hurry up and wait for it” experience that most tourists endure. It can’t fix lame excuses.

When the telephone doesn’t work, the furniture is stained, the television seems to be missing, and room service is so slow it feels like it must be coming by way of the Alaskan Iditarod, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that visitors are disappointed and might not want to return.  

I wasn’t exactly sure what to say to the two friends who encountered this situation two weeks ago at their nearly thousand dollars a night south shore hotel. I would have recommended that they stay at the hotel near me but that hotel doesn’t provide cable television or internet which is probably one of the many contributing factors as to why they are in receivership today.  Apparently, they didn’t want guests either.

I didn’t know what to tell them when they also complained that the wait staff at a popular restaurant in Hamilton neglected to tell them that the gratuity, at 17 per cent for crying out loud, was already included in their bill.

I would have pleaded with them that this was a horrible misunderstanding and that it never, ever happens but I knew better.  Double dipping for tips with unsuspecting tourists is a scam and damages the reputation of everyone on the island. Restaurateurs need to be vigilant and end this practice. Now.

Is anyone paying attention? For too long the hospitality industry in Bermuda has relied on the flora and fauna and ocean views in the hope that their visitors wouldn’t notice the shoddy service.

Forget the scenery and deliver service as if your guest rooms are facing a brick wall. Imagine how pleased your guests will be when all they have to worry about is nursing their sunburn.

If you are one of the many dedicated hospitality providers who go the extra mile, your place in heaven is assured and you have my heartfelt apologies. You know who you are and you know who among your colleagues have been coasting along and not delivering the service each guest deserves. Your work is a lot harder and that isn’t right, either.

The Bermuda Department of Tourism is charged with selling Bermuda to the consumer and to potential hoteliers.

Their role is to showcase Bermuda’s unique offerings, accessibility to major airline hubs and to support the hotel industry and encourage their investment in Bermuda which in turn employs Bermudians.  What the Bermuda Department of Tourism cannot do is the work of the hotels, the restaurants, the shops and the taxi drivers.

That burden falls squarely on us and if we are successful we will reap the benefits. It is an equitable partnership between the public and private sector.

Bermuda can be so much more than the Bermuda of bygone days. Tweaking a beloved song or depicting tourists in print ads and commercials dancing in the streets of St. George’s isn’t going to miraculously ingest oxygen in a stale product unless the real stakeholders get off their collective you-know-what and get moving again. 

Practice the phrase, “…is there anything else I can do for you?” and watch your guest smile.

Watch them make a reservation to come back to Bermuda. Later, when you begin to see the benefits of all your hard work, it will be your turn to dance in the streets... and all the way into your local bank.