One of the pieces of legislation that will be introduced into the House of Assembly during this month’s special sessions will concern the creation of the Tourism Authority.

It will be a relief to have it debated and, hopefully, brought into effect. It has been a part of the One Bermuda Alliance’s agenda since the party’s first days, and it was part of our election platform. We believe it is the key to a resurgence of tourism in Bermuda, after many years of decline. 

Why do I say that?

It is long past time that Bermuda started holding itself to account for the tourism industry’s performance. We have watched while air arrivals declined, hotels closed, airline seats dwindled, jobs disappeared and tourism earnings shrivelled. 

And we stood by while Bermuda literally dropped off the radar in core markets that had sent visitors to the Island for decades – a flow of business that made tourism the largest earner of foreign currency in our economy and the largest provider of jobs for Bermudians. Customer awareness of the Island hit all-time lows where people didn’t know who we were, what we stood for, or even where we were. The Bermuda brand, once the blue-chip standard in tourism, faded from sight.

Finger-pointing for all this serves no purpose today – there is plenty of blame to go around. The important thing is to get this vital industry back in the groove, growing jobs and paycheques, opening career doors and restoring the pride that goes with welcoming visitors to our beautiful island home.

For me, the key is that Tourism Authority leadership will be held accountable for the performance of the industry – setting targets and meeting them. This is a huge difference from ministers who were never really pressured to deliver on their forecasts and plans.

Taking the politics out of tourism will better serve the Island, keeping our focus on reality and results.   

The other change I look forward to is more transparent and, frankly, honest communication about the state of the industry. For political reasons, past government statements were continuously massaged to present an always-sunny, resurgent picture of tourism. It was a disservice to Bermuda, keeping people in the dark.     

With independent leadership at the helm, Bermuda can expect a business-like approach to what is, after all, a business; where transparency is mandated and results are demanded.

The Tourism Authority is a major part of the Government’s plans for the recovery and renewal of Bermuda – a bold and innovative step promising change that can make a substantial difference in the lives of many people.

It appears the legislation will not have an easy path through the House. The PLP leadership has taken an aggressive line, attacking the possibility of job losses among Tourism Department staff even though the Minister, the Hon. Shawn Crockwell, has assured the staff that no one will be made redundant.

Opposition to change is to be expected. It’s just part of the process of governing. Change can be difficult and certainly unsettling, but change is essential, for the Island as a whole and definitely for our beleaguered but ever-promising tourism industry.

So much rests on making the most of what Bermuda offers the world – which is the source of the dollars and cents that make our lives go round. Getting tourism back on its feet, with rising numbers of air visitors, is one path toward creating new jobs, new careers and rising paycheques. 

The Tourism Authority is one vehicle to make this happen. We look forward to doing just that.

Toni Daniels is an OBA spokeswoman