WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27: I’m not sure, but I think I just heard a collective gasp coming from the people of St George’s.
Guided by Europraxis, a consumer research company, the Bermuda Tourism Board in its National Tourism Plan has identified the town of St. George’s as “Tourism Hub Number One,” along with St David’s Island.
In spite of its history and quaint elegance, poor St George’s has been treated like Cinderella for years. Now, the Tourism Board wants to invite her back to the ball.
With nothing to wear, she’s covered in soot and a lot of debt. If I lived in St George’s I would be spitting mad.
A UNESCO World Heritage destination wasn’t good enough to protect, and while its residents pleaded with anyone who would listen, not to abandon her, today, she’s barely alive. How infuriating.
To be fair, Europraxis isn’t to blame for stating the obvious.
The consultants came to Bermuda and no doubt immediately saw the beauty of the island and the potential.
I can only imagine what they must have been thinking when they did their research and learned that for so many years Bermuda did get it right and was the jewel of the Mid-Atlantic.
How do you explain to consultants that Bermuda got sloppy when it came to service? How do you explain a lack of interest in whether or not guests on the island felt they were getting real value for their hard-earned dollars?
The National Tourism Plan correctly identifies that the number one challenge for Bermuda is a “lack of clear positioning and brand identity”.
But here’s the salient point; Bermuda did have a brand, but it was tossed out to accommodate a political agenda, namely independence for Bermuda.
It’s a little difficult don’t you think, to brand Bermuda by what you wish wasn’t Bermuda’s history? “Oh, we never cared for Bermuda being a colony, so we just dropped all that.”
Bermuda threw away the bunting, the pomp and circumstance, the numerous portraits of the Queen that used to be everywhere, including the currency, so that those citizens who desire independence wouldn’t be offended. One retail shop even changed its name.
The very thing that drew many Americans to Bermuda was that it is the oldest British colony or now more correctly known as, the oldest ‘British Overseas Territory’.
For the most part, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Bermuda was a dud. Think about what tourism opportunities were lost in this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Bermuda’s identity has been so watered down over the years that it now struggles to ‘brand’ itself.
How ridiculous. Like it or not, the head of state in Bermuda is the Queen. Why not exploit that for the purpose of tourism; for the purpose of reviving the entire island and putting food on the table for Bermudians.
Whatever your beliefs may be about Bermuda and its future as a self-determined country on the world stage, the reality is that you have to eat first.
Take a page from the folks at Disney. Not one single executive, not one single character actor, restaurant employee, dish washer believes that Snow White, Mickey and Minnie and all their friends, including Cinderella is real. But they are compensated to make you believe in the magic of the Magic Kingdom.
They are compensated not for what might happen in several years, but this year. Bermuda needs to take this approach so that it can have opportunities later, which might include independence.
By the way, before you get insulted at the suggestion of Bermuda being like Disney World, please note that Disney World is twice the size of Bermuda and employs roughly 62,000 people. Not bad for the land of make-believe where employees’ job description could be narrowed down to one word — ‘pretend’.
We could do with a little pretending, especially when dealing with tourists. Smiling is good, too.
Bring out the bunting, dust off a portrait or two and create an experience that tourists won’t forget. Be pragmatic and suspend your dislike of all things about being an overseas territory, if only for several months each year.
You don’t like the Queen? That’s fine. But competition with other markets is so fierce; why not distinguish yourself in whatever way that you can. You have a Queen, they don’t.
Don’t forget the fairy dust and bring on the young royals. Their presence in Bermuda would shine a klieg light directly on this island and generate tremendous interest and excitement.
There’s no point in “polishing the jewels” if no one cares or bothers to show up.
Just ask Cinderella — just ask the people of St. George’s. Cinderella at least got her prince and a new pair of shoes. The town of St George’s is still waiting. What is the National Tourism Board going to do now?