With expatriate workers leaving Bermuda, the hospitality industry has seen a decline in the number of friends and family coming to visit. *File photo
With expatriate workers leaving Bermuda, the hospitality industry has seen a decline in the number of friends and family coming to visit. *File photo

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 3: An exodus of expatriate workers is hurting our economy both directly and indirectly.

Fewer islanders means fewer visits by friends and family — and the loss is hurting tourism, say industry sources.

In 2009 nearly 39,000 air visits by friends and family were recorded by the Department of Tourism.

This dropped to just over 36,000 in 2012.

In the first six months of this year, fewer than 15,000 friends and relatives of people living on the island travelled here.

Knock-on effect

Hospitality businesses told us they have been hit by the knock-on effects of the decline in guest workers.

There has been a steady drop in the working, non-Bermudian population on the island.

Last year the Annual Employment Survey revealed that the number of people in this category had dropped to 8,374 — the lowest figure since 2002 and nearly 2,000 less than the 10,367 recorded in 2008.

One tourism source, who worked with visitors on a day-to-day basis for several years, said: “There is no doubt that there is a strong correlation between these two figures.

“We used to see a steady flow of friends and families of guest workers coming to the island around two years ago.

“But now that has dried right up as expats have left the island.

“These families and friends used to represent a significant chunk of our visitors every year.

“But as the number of guest workers has decreased so has the number or friends and families coming in to visit them.

“These are also the kind of people that come back two or three times a year and spend a lot of money here.”

Phil Barnett, owner of the Island Restaurant chain that includes Rum Bar, Victoria Grill, Hog Penny and the Pickled Onion, says most of restaurants have been affected: “The knock-on effect of the declining guest worker population is significant and it certainly does not help.

“Obviously when there are fewer people on the island that is bad for business.

“But the friends and families of expats also provide an important source of trade throughout the year. Although they may not stay at hotels or guest houses they still eat out a lot and buy presents to take home with them so they are injecting valuable income into the economy.

“They will also visit tourist attractions during their stay. We have noticed a steady decline in this area from around 2009.”

British Airways has witnessed a slight decline in passenger numbers over the last year from London.

And taxi drivers say have noticed a decline. Cabbie Lee Tucker said: “It is especially obvious in the off-season when friends and family used to come a lot more. These kinds of visitors have more spending power so they were good for the country.”

Joanne MacPhee, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, added:  “The decline in guest workers has had a major impact on stores in Bermuda.

“But there is also the trickle down effect, too, and we have tried to stress the importance of that in the past.

“When you lose these workers you also lose their friends and families who visit the country, too. It’s a given.

“And that loss should not be underestimated.”

We asked the Department of Tourism to comment, but no statement was forthcoming.