Bermuda is set to go upmarket with the opening of a number of international luxury hotels next year.
The first international five-star property to open on the island will be a Park Hyatt, followed by a St Regis in the capital, Hamilton, and a Four Seasons Hotel.
The new hotels mark a significant turning point for Bermuda, which for many years was resistant to tourism development, according to the Premier and Tourism Minister, Dr Ewart Brown (pictured).
Speaking exclusively to Breaking Travel News, Dr Brown said:
“Developers can see evidence that the government is welcoming developments on the island.
“Previously it was a complicated process o get the necessary permission to open a new hotel. Now we have a dedicated person in a dedicated department. We are open for business,” he added.
It was only in April that the island’s first five-star property, Tucker’s Point, opened.
It played host to the Queen’s official visit to mark Bermuda’s 40th anniversary of independence.
Bermuda is also hoping to stimulate tourism from the UK with a special money-back offer for visitors.
For bookings between December 22 and January 26 for travel between April 1, 2010 and October 31, 2010, the government will give $650 (£398) off accommodation costs at 11 luxury hotels on the island.
The initiative ran last year and cost the Bermudan government $4m.
Dr Brown said: “That may seem like a lot of money [banking and finance is the first], but tourism is the second pillar of our economy and one we are committed to rebuild.
“Rather than spend money on TV commercials on CNN we want to encourage tourism in a more direct way.”
Dr Brown said Bermuda had suffered badly since the collapse of the low-cost carrier Zoom: “It really hurt us. We saw a 22% fall in visitor numbers fm the UK.”
At present, just British Airways flies to the island from the UK.
Dr Brown is meeting with BA chief executive Willie Walsh this week in a bid to persuade him to discount fares to Bermuda.
Dr Brown is hoping to attract other carriers to the island, which is about 6.5hrs flight time from the UK – significantly less than the Caribbean.
Next year, budget Canada carrier WestJet launches a direct flight from Toronto to Bermuda.