Bill Hanbury, who is stepping down shortly after three years as the chief executive officer of the BTA, which runs the industry here, was speaking as the latest November figures showed an 11th month of consecutive growth as well as a 52 per cent increase in air arrivals compared to last year.
Hanbury, an American, lamented the growing politicising of a new airport project, which was the focus of protest clashes outside parliament earlier this month.
“There should be no politics in tourism, and it’s of great consternation to me that tourism has been so politicised in Bermuda,” he said, adding “it causes real damage and does not help anyone.
“Take the airport as an example; the politicising of the airport is really a poor move across the board. The tourism economy needs a new airport. It is embarrassing to the country to have that airport. I am not here to say how it should get done, but whether or not it is labour unions, politicians, government, the opposition, people need to sit down and figure out how to build a new airport.
“We desperately need a new airport. We have no money to build it and someone is willing to build it for us. End of conversation, just build it. If someone else has a better idea, bring it on, but I don’t see anyone with a better idea.
“Until the politicians and the unions sit down and figure it out the only people they are hurting are their constituents by not building an airport.”
Police in riot gear used pepper spray in a bid to disperse protesters who demonstrated outside the House of Assembly against the government’s plans to use a Canadian company to build a new US$250 million airport terminal in a public-private partnership, but legislators were blocked from entering the building and the Speaker of the House adjourned parliament until early February before debate could begin.
November marked the 11th month of consecutive growth in the tourism industry with an additional 3,600 air visitors, compared to November 2015. Air arrivals for the year to date are also up 16 per cent, or 21,800, compared to the first 11 months of 2015.
Hanbury described the latest figures as a “magnificent result.
“When I first saw the numbers, I had to look at them twice. We are no longer cautiously optimistic, we are firmly optimistic about tourism prospects in Bermuda.
“This is the new normal, and we are not going back again. We must continue to build on this and the passing of legislation to allow rental minicars in Bermuda is a really positive development.”
Hanbury’s last day in the CEO’s chair will be January 6, while his Bermudian successor, Kevin Dallas, will start work officially on January 9.
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