When the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) hired Kevin Dallas as its new CEO, several Bermuda tourism officials said they were looking for a leader with online experience, because bookings have shifted toward digital sources and away from traditional agents.
A Nov. 3 article in Bermuda’s Royal Gazette quoted Bermuda Senator Michael Fahy, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, saying that “over the past ten years, the inner workings of the global travel industry have changed completely. Travellers now dream, search and book online, and a huge portion of bookings are made through online travel agents like Expedia, rather than traditional travel agents. Successful destinations drive tourism demand using digital marketing, analytics, and partnerships with airlines and digital platforms like Google, TripAdvisor, Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook.
“Destinations that continue to market themselves in traditional ways will fall behind, but Bermuda intends to stay ahead of this curve and lead, transforming and enmeshing our traditional product for success in this modern environment.”
When contacted about his comments, Senator Fahy deferred to the Bermuda Tourism Authority. So Travel Market Report asked Victoria Isley, chief sales & marketing officer, if Fahy’s arrival would herald a shift in marketing away from traditional travel agents.
Isley said the BTA “is not shifting marketing efforts away from traditional agents,” but has “adjusted the way in which we are engaging and partnering with both offline and online travel agent partners. “
The BTA “creates integrated marketing strategies with both offline and online partners—this includes digital tour operators as well as traditional. As an example, Bermuda is a preferred destination with Virtuoso and Signature—and we use a combination of digital, print and face-to-face meetings to connect with their agent communities. Even traditional agents have evolved the way they do business today because of the advent of the digital age.”
Isley also said Fahy’s comments should not be construed as diminishing the importance of traditional travel agents because they are “based on factual research and global trends.
“Research tells us all the people spend time dreaming about travel as much as they do researching, booking and sharing. What's most important is to connect emotionally with travelers throughout their decision making journey,” Isley said.
Isley said the BTA will continue to invest in educating traditional travel agents. “It's really important that our travel agent partners come along with us as the island evolves in its experiences, services and offering so they can provide their clients the best insight into Bermuda,” she said.
“Many partners and agents have their own digital channels and social platforms to engage with their customers -- and that's important to consider as well. Bermuda has a certain mystique and culture, and a new generation of traveler is discovering island life in Bermuda."
Part of the shift has to do with the changing demographics of Bermuda arrivals, Isley said.
“We are on track to welcome the most vacation air arrivals since 2008 and visitors under the age of 45 are growing by double digits while still seeing single digit growth in the core boomer market. We are eager to work with partners that can help share Bermuda's stories,” Isley said.
Dallas, 38, joins the BTA from Worldpay, where he was chief product & marketing officer. Prior to that, he was a consultant at Bain & Co. Dallas will take over the CEO role in January when the contract runs outs for current office holder, Bill Hanbury