Man with a plan: Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell is at the vortex of change. *File photo
Man with a plan: Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell is at the vortex of change. *File photo

Business leaders came out in staunch support of the Tourism Authority yesterday as the dust refused to settle on a stormy week in the industry.

The announcement on Wednesday that the Department of Tourism would be axed to make way for the new Tourism Authority left civil servants wondering if they would still have a job in October.

And it sparked a backlash from the Opposition as well as the unions that was only partially quelled by Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell’s pledge that no redundancies would be made.

But despite the uproar surrounding the announcement, tourism bosses and insiders remain convinced the Authority is the only way to go.

Phil Barnett, the boss of the Island Group of restaurants, said: “A Tourism Authority is absolutely the way to go. We need to take politics out of the situation and move in a different direction.

“Tourism in Bermuda has dropped significantly from its heyday we can’t just carry on the same way we have been.

“There are some excellent people in the Department of Tourism and I believe they will have no problem in being rehired into the Authority.

“This move to an Authority will also bring a shift in thinking because people think differently in private enterprise.

“While this move is scary it is also exciting – we have to start moving forward.

John Harvey, CEO of the Bermuda Hotel’s Association, told the Sun: “We have supported the idea of a Tourism Authority for decades and we are pretty excited that we are getting close to bringing it before Parliament.

“We are headed in the right direction.

“It’s not really surprising that there has been some negative reaction – this happens whenever anyone suggests change.

“But this is the best thing for Bermuda and our tourism product.”

Tourism Legislation will be tabled in the House in mid-September, and the transition is expected to be complete by the end of March next year.

A new look

David Dodwell, who will head the Authority, told the Sun exclusively: “It’s not for me to comment further on what is being told to the staff - that is a matter for the Ministry.

“What I can comment on is the fact that we have taken a new look at how tourism will be managed in the future.

“An Authority is how the new Government is making this happen and the Minister gave me the responsibility of making this Authority a reality.

“Thus, with him, his PS and others, we have worked very hard to start getting the process underway. I have already stated that we engaged Ernst & Young to assist and I am very happy that we did.

“They have individuals who have been through very similar situations and their advice right now is helping us save money in the long term and get it right from the outset.

“We have committed to giving details on our Executive Steering Committee and our Project Management Office and those details will be forthcoming in the very near future.

“Everyone I have talked to has agreed we need to change the way we do business in regards to tourism, including the Shadow Minister, Wayne Furbert.

“The Minister has made it very clear to me that he wants this new organization to come together quickly and efficiently and that is the journey we are now on.

“We will stay in touch with all concerned and give regular updates as we move forward.”

‘Bold move’

Ronnie Viera, President of the Chamber of Commerce said that the chamber were fully behind the Authority. 

He added: “It puts tourism in the hands of people in the industry who understand it.

“We have tried everything else in tourism, and we hope this can turn the industry around.”

A former member of the Tourism Board, who asked not to be named, said: “This is a bold and courageous move and should have been done a decade ago.

“We have had a succession of tourism ministers and directors over the years and nothing has changed. It’s the right move to take tourism out of the political area.

“There has been a lot of political manoeuvrring in the past and this move should eliminate that.”