Vacationers who arrived in Bermuda by air poured more money into the local economy in the first half of 2019 versus a year ago—despite the fact there were fewer visitors.
Leisure air arrivals were down 5 percent through June 2019 when compared to the same period a year ago, but air visitor spending was up 1 percent. The statistical data, released today by the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), show a healthy 7-percent hike in per-person spending among air leisure visitors, which resulted in a bigger economic impact, even though there were fewer people flying to the island.
“In the hospitality business, visitor spending is a metric most closely tied to profitability. We’re very pleased to see economic growth in the first half of the year,” said BTA CEO Kevin Dallas. “However, we remain concerned airlift challenges will continue to negatively affect air arrivals in 2019. We raised this red flag at the start of the year, and since then, our team has closed the deal on big-brand event partnerships, including the US Open and the PGA TOUR’s inaugural Bermuda Championship. These are purposeful steps that can help us offset the constraints on airlift.”
At the BTA’s Outlook Forum back in February, officials warned that while 2018 leisure air arrival numbers had reached a 16-year high and third consecutive year of growth, business and visiting friends and relatives travel had declined sharply: down more than 30 percent since 2007. This scenario is impacting the amount of inventory airlines assign to Bermuda.
Meantime, on cruise arrivals, inventory has grown year-over-year, particularly in the non-summer months. Arriving passengers are up 15 percent in the first half of 2019.
Leisure Spending (Air)
Vacationers arriving by air in Q2 2019 spent $98.5 million, compared to $96.2 million in the same April-to-June period last year, an increase of 2.4 percent reflected in the latest figures. That mirrored an upward trend in the complete first half of the year, with spending to June 30 reaching $131.76 million—a total of 1.4 percent more than during the first six months of 2018.
Cruise arrivals reflected growth, with notable passenger arrival increases during the non-summer months that helped drive up both Q2 and year-to-date figures. The number of passengers in 2019 increased 12 percent over 2018’s second quarter, with a total of 220,395 over the three-month period, compared to 196,492 in 2018 and 165,560 in 2017. That growth jumped to 15 percent for the year-over-year six-month tally, registering 231,495 visitors to June 30, some 30,316 more than in 2018. Increases in January, February and March underscored success in making the island a year-round destination, a key objective in Bermuda’s National Tourism Plan.
Air Arrivals & Capacity
While 3.6-percent fewer leisure air travellers were recorded in the second quarter compared to 2018’s strong growth, the number remained 11 percent higher than over the same period in 2017. Total air arrivals for April–June 2019 were 64,175, down 2,429 over Q2 2018, but up 6,379 travellers compared to 2017. Over the first six months of the year, that translated into a 5-percent decrease. Both reductions are attributed largely to fewer seats originating in the core New York market following 2018 schedule changes out of John F. Kennedy International Airport that reduced air capacity by 5 percent in Q2 and 4.4 percent to date this year. The reduction in seats led to fewer US arrivals, but increases were recorded in passenger numbers from Canada and the UK.
Lower numbers of leisure air visitors in the second quarter of 2019 had a corresponding downward effect on hotel occupancy, registering a 3.3-percent year-over-year decline in Q2, and a 4.4-percent decrease for the half-year. Vacation rentals were also down for the period. Overall, a total of 73 percent of all leisure air visitors chose hotel accommodation in Q2, compared to 10 percent who stayed in rental homes or apartments.
“After 12 consecutive quarters of leisure air arrival growth dating back to January 2016, the sharp increases Bermuda experienced over the past three years are levelling off,” Dallas said. “This is not unexpected and not overly worrying, because our overall trajectory is strong. In fact, statistically, 2019 is outpacing 2017, which at that time, was a record-breaking year.
“With new hotel inventory, new marketing partnerships and new on-island experiences on the way in the next several years and visitor spending on the rise,” he added, “we believe the future for Bermuda’s tourism industry remains the brightest it’s been in a generation.”
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