FRIDAY, FEB. 24: High airfares are deterring British tourists from travelling to Bermuda, according to travel writer Simon Calder.
The internationally respected journalist said UK holidaymakers were being lured to South Africa and the Gulf states on the back of cut-price deals at the expense of the island.
Mr Calder, who is regularly asked to appear on the BBC and Sky News to share his views, told the Sun: “I think there is a huge appetite for a beautiful island like Bermuda in the UK.
“But it is going partly unsatisfied because of the high level of fares compared with other equivalent destinations.
“I have always said if you are going to use your air miles the best way to spend them is Gatwick to Bermuda.
“It’s the same distance as Heathrow to Boston but the prices are twice as high.”
Mr Calder’s comments come after the number of air visitors travelling to Bermuda from the UK reached its lowest figure since 2004.
The latest statistics show 21,524 people flew into Bermuda from the UK in 2011, which was a drop of more than seven per cent from 2010.
Mr Calder, who heads up the travel desk at The Independent, said the London travel market was being flooded by special offers from countries like Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
He added: “British Airways runs a good operation in Bermuda but it is very much focused on the front of the plane.
“On my way over there were plenty of empty seats in economy but I could not believe that every seat in Club World was full.
“While that carries on BA will not be worried about discounting the back of the aircraft.
“I am not in a position to say ‘cut your fares’. They will do what is good for business.
“But even at my desk at the Independent I’m seeing deals to places like South Africa for £400 ($623) and the Middle East too.
“These are the deals that British people are snapping up.
“Their appetite for travel has barely been dimmed by the economic troubles.
“The UK is pretty much up there with Germany as being the place from where people want to travel the most.
“But with all the temptations offered in the Gulf and trips costing half the price as Bermuda it is very difficult to counteract.
“Personally if I was to choose between Dubai and Bermuda I would choose Bermuda every time.
“But British people are price sensitive and they love a bargain.
“They are being targeted with really good deals and there is a lot of capital going into London from the Gulf.”
The British travel journalist is on island at present filming ‘48 Hours with Simon Calder’ to help promote Bermuda as a destination that can be combined with a trip to the U.S.
He says a key factor to attracting British tourists to Bermuda is offering them an attractive package deal.
But he insisted it was important to highlight Britain’s strong historic links to the island as well dispelling geographical ignorance about where the island is situated.
“If I was in charge I would be banging heads together, speaking to the airlines and the hotels and seeing if we could offer a starting price of £999 ($1,568) for British travelers to come to Bermuda and then go on to the U.S.
“I would say I want to be able to offer in March and October British travellers with the opportunity to travel to Bermuda, New York and back for under £1,000 ($1,570).
“I think the concept of flying to Bermuda, staying three days and then going on to New York is a marvelous idea.
“The combination of visiting one of the great U.S. cities and an island paradise in one trip is a great opportunity
“Many people in the UK do not understand that Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean.
“And back in the UK there is an ignorance of the cultural heritage there is here in Bermuda.
“When you visit places like Dockyard and St George’s you are really struck by how profoundly significant they are to British history.
“I think it is just a matter of pointing it out on a map and highlighting that here is a place that is seven hours from London and just two hours from New York.
“Once you get people coming here they will tell their friends about the warm welcome, the beaches and the great food and drink.”
Mr Calder said that this summer’s festivities to mark John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album could also be a real money-spinner.
He said: “People in Britain in their 60s would love to be a part of this.
“These type of people will probably be retired and have the kind of money to be able to afford the trip
“If there is a ‘rock and roll deal’ people would come from the UK.
“This is a chapter of Lennon’s life people do not know about.
“It is great that it is being celebrated this summer.”