For about 40 years, tourism was a constant and growing industry. It is now an inconstant, almost incontinent, industry. However, eternally, hope springs. Once again, as has happened so many times since 1990, Bermuda kicks off — one more time — in the game of tourism.

Announcing the new tourism board, the new Minister, Patrice Minors, sounded upbeat and positive and promised to re-examine national strategy.

The board has lots of new faces. One assumes they will bring new ideas. 

Tony Brannon, a fierce critic of past tourism efforts, is now on the board, so is Shine Hayward. 

There is a taxi driver, an accountant, a big-time former CEO, and a hotel manager. In all, a good looking and carefully, broadly selected board.

Now the nitty gritty. What will this board do? What, realistically, can it accomplish?

First, they have to meet and agree a starting position. That accounts for January and February 2011.

They have to agree a forward action and next steps. That’s March and April 2011.

By March 31, 2011, they must be sufficiently advanced so they can select a new advertiser and promoter for Bermuda Tourism.

By July 2011, the board should have reached agreement about a new national strategy, should have selected a good advertiser and should be aggressively pushing a new drive to put Bermuda back in the minds of people who are planning vacations.

That means that by the middle of what should be the tourist high season, Bermuda should be just about getting into high gear.   

That means we will be behind. Not ahead. Behind. We will lose this tourist season. Any results achieved by a sustained and successful drive in 2011 will probably not pay off until 2012.

This brings me to the next issue — will this fresh new board, with its fresh ideas and fresh energy, still be around in January 2012?

Or will we, by then, have a fresh new Minister and yet another fresh new board?

Coke war

Jamaica had a decent tourist season all through 2005 to 2010.

And remember that the country had the Dudus coke war in summer 2010, with more than 50 people killed — CNN, FOX, BBC, ABC and NBC gave full global coverage to the mayhem on the streets of Kingston.

Despite all that bad publicity, despite the global recession and despite the downturn in the U.S. economy, Jamaica still did not have the 35 per cent drop-off in national income from tourism that Bermuda has suffered.

Bermuda made $513 million from tourism in 2007 and $331 million in 2009 — 35 per cent down.

None of the ‘islands to the south’ suffered the catastrophic decline in tourism income that Bermuda has suffered.

So strong and repeated suggestions that Bermuda has been specially affected by the global recession may really mean that Bermuda has been uniquely affected by that recession.

If Bermuda has been uniquely affected, then we must find the unique solution that will work, uniquely, in unique Bermuda.

If we cannot find this combination of ‘uniques’, then we will have to admit that we are out of the tourism business in the same way that Eastman Kodak is now out of the film-making (Koda-chrome) business.

On the other hand, if we need to rediscover then correct and reset a set of ‘uniques’, then we will, in time, be able to restart and rebuild Bermuda’s tourism industry. 

This new board has to deal with this ‘unique’ factor. If we and the board cannot discover the underlying factors, then we certainly cannot fix and correct the consequential consequences.

I wish the board well. I hope it will still be around 100 months from now.

If it is shuffled — yet again — in 12 or 20 months then it will be a clear indication that a constant strategy of the kind competitor Jamaica clearly has does not exist in Bermuda — despite everything that politicians and publicists say.

Time will tell. With the need to get Bermuda tourism income back up above the $500 million level, and the need to have a successful and likely constant strategy, the new board and Minister need to remain as constants for long enough to achieve the kind of constancy that Bermuda has not had for the past seven years.

Constancy and uniqueness are the two most critical issues if Bermuda is to get back above the $500 million income level.