The number of convention visitors to Bermuda plummeted by half last year, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell said today.

And the number of business visitors to the island also dropped by nearly ten per cent, as did the number of travellers visiting friends and family.

The news came as Mr Crockwell said that overall visitor levels dropped by six per cent last year.

Around 615,000 tourists arrived in Bermuda last year, compared to 655,000 in 2011 – 40,000 down.

Air arrivals dropped by less than two per cent, while cruise ship numbers fell by nine per cent.

Mr Crockwell said, however, that the drop in cruise ship visits came after a record 2011 and reflected 20 fewer ship calls last year.

He added: “While those numbers overall are disappointing and need to be turned around, we see within them some positive signs and opportunities.

“For example, we saw more than a four per cent increase in overall leisure visitors in 2012. This number is significant as the leisure traveller is our primary target audience and the area towards which the bulk of our sales and marketing efforts have been focused.

“These vacation visitors represent 65 per cent of all visitors to the island, so realising continued growth here is crucial.”

Mr Crockwell added that visitors from Canada – buoyed by a dollar performing better than the US one – had increased their share of the market.

Mr Crockwell added that he would be meeting Air Canada chiefs next week to discuss their cuts in services to the island.

He said that arrivals from the east coast of North America had also “held firm and actually increased their share overall.”

The total number of visitors from the rest of the world rose by eight per cent, which Mr Crockwell said showed potential for growth.

Mr Crockwell added that sporting events offered room for growth and provided free advertising for Bermuda when televised, like the PGA Grand Slam of Golf event.