Wilfred Llewellyn Furbert, centre, is recognised as an 'Unsung Hero' of the tourism industry by Ministers Dame Jennifer Smith, left, and Wayne Furbert, right. *Photo supplied
Wilfred Llewellyn Furbert, centre, is recognised as an 'Unsung Hero' of the tourism industry by Ministers Dame Jennifer Smith, left, and Wayne Furbert, right. *Photo supplied

MONDAY, FEB. 13: Visitor numbers to Bermuda increased by 70,000 in 2011 compared to the previous year, Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert announced today.

Mr Furbert said the 12 per cent rise was good news, but insisted ‘the best was yet to come’.

He told a press conference this afternoon that 655,236 people came to the island in 2011, which was the second highest figure in history.

Mr Furbert said Bermuda enjoyed an ‘outstanding reputation’ abroad as he outlined several awards and honours the island had picked up in 2011.

He added: “There are still too many people overseas who do not know us as well as they should or feel the sense of urgency to pay us a visit.

“It is those individuals who present the challenge, and there is nothing I like more than a challenge.”

Air arrivals for 2011 were up by nearly two per cent on the previous year with 236,038 tourists flying into the island.

Cruise visitors increased by 19 per cent, while convention incentive groups rose significantly by 116 per cent.

Mr Furbert revealed the number of visitors from the US and Europe had increased, but there had been a drop in the number of visitors from Canada, the UK and the rest of the world.

He added: “Visitors arrivals for January 2012 is up. And hotel occupancy for February is so far showing to be a positive month with a possible gain of five per cent.”

Last year Bermuda was voted ‘Best Island in the Caribbean/Atlantic’ by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine and the Reefs was voted favourite resort in the Atlantic.

This afternoon Mr Furbert announced that the National Tourism Plan is on track to be finished by the end of May, while the annual industry night had been brought forward to April 4.

He added: “We are actively working with some developers to build some new hotels, but because of your disappointments in the past, I will not be announcing any until I am sure everything is on place.

“I am pleased to report that the outlook ahead for 2012 looks strong indeed.”

The Tourism Minister also used the press conference to launch the ‘Unsung Heroes’ initiative to recognise people in the community whose selfless actions help the tourist industry.

Wilfred Llewellyn Furbert was the recipient of the award for his efforts clearing and cleaning the area overlooking the former limestone quarry at Cut Road in St George’s, where taxis often stop to show tourists.