After a several-year hiatus from the Canadian market, Bermuda has an exciting message for travel advisors: We're back!
At an industry event on 06SEP on the scenic 28th floor of Toronto's Hotel X, the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) invited the trade, industry partners, and media to unveil a new chapter in promoting the island to Canadian travellers.
"We're raising awareness again because we've gotten a little quiet in this market," Tracy Berkeley, Chief Executive Officer, BTA, told Open Jaw at the event. "We're re-engaging media and trade just to get the word out that we're open for business. We want to partner with various stakeholders in this market."
And they're committed for the long haul.
"We're not just coming up here to do a blip and then disappear again. We're looking to embark on partnerships and do a sustained campaign," she said.
The BTA hasn't had a presence in the Canadian market since at least pre-COVID, Berkeley noted.
"I think we got very complacent and I think there was a level of consistency [from the Canadian market] that we felt we didn't have to continuously market to. Then COVID came, travel changed, and we started to look around and realized that in some key areas, like Canada, we were no longer front of mind. I didn't want this year to go by without the team starting this engagement so that we can continue to build on it in 2024 and beyond."
With a direct flight between YYZ and Bermuda available with Air Canada and vacation packages with Air Canada Vacations, it makes sense for the re-engagement efforts to start in Toronto, Berkeley said. As Open Jaw reported, representatives from Bermuda and Air Canada met recently to explore the airline's further expansion of services to the island.
Until recently, WestJet also offered a direct flight to Bermuda, but is wrapping up with the destination shortly as it focuses on Western Canada.
Addressing the trade, Berkeley made a pitch to travel advisors, saying:
"Bermuda is close, it's safe, and we're open for business. There are a lot of things for you to experience and explore once you get to the island. Just put us on the consideration setting. Lean in - there's a lot to learn about this destination."
Not Just Luxe
While Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean, has earned a reputation as an exclusive, luxurious island, Berkeley emphasized it's not just for the high-rollers.
"I don't want Bermuda to be this intimidating place that people feel there's nothing for them. If you just do a little bit of research, it's not unattainable," she said, noting that visitors can choose accommodations that vary from family properties, to high-end luxury retreats like the Rosewood Bermuda or The St. Regis Bermuda Resort, and everything in between.
"What we're also finding is that people are willing to pay what they have to for their travels, but they want authentic experience. We're hearing people are looking for sustainability, cultural, and culinary experiences when they fly to Bermuda - and that's what we're looking to give you."
From food festivals to sporting events, authentic experiences in Bermuda are as abundant as the island's sun-soaked beaches. First off, there's the year-round golf and PGA tournaments to experience. In the summer, visitors can enjoy cricket season and in early spring, it's all about diving. There's also the St. George's Seafood Festival, the Swizzle Fest, and even the Bermuda Vegan Fest.
YYZ to BDA in Under Three Hours
Sheila Aue, a travel advisor with TPI, recalls her experience visiting Bermuda about eight years ago, and says it's an island with a lot to offer Canadian travellers.
"It's a short jaunt and a beautiful island with lots to see and great culture. It's not your typical island that you're used to seeing in the Caribbean," Aue told Open Jaw. "The food is awesome, the people are friendly, and the vibe is good there."
With a flight time of under three hours from YYZ, clients can be donning Bermuda shorts and sipping on rum swizzle in no time.
"A lot of people are looking for that short jaunt. It's a great destination for a four-day girl's getaway," she said.
Aue acknowledges the island's high-end reputation and lack of all-inclusives - a clear Canadian favourite when it comes to holiday bookings - but she says the approach to selling Bermuda is about pairing it with the right client.
"You could probably do it on a budget, but it's more moderate to high-end," she notes. "There's not a lot of all-inclusives, so you have to do hotel EP stays. But there are a lot of people who typically book all-inclusives who are looking for other options. It's good for those who are self-sufficient and explorer types, because there's lots to see and lots of history."
She also noted the island would appeal to foodies and golfers.
Megan Gillard is a Product Manager at Senior Discovery Tours responsible for planning seniors' group tours to Bermuda. She told Open Jaw Bermuda a "very" popular destination among their clientele.
"Our clients like to have an escape in the winter, and Bermuda is a popular alternative to Florida," Gillard said. "It's safe, it's a little bit of a slower pace, and it's easy to get to. There's a lot of activities to do."
New Trip Planning Tools for the Trade
As part of the BTA's recently launched marketing campaign, “Find The Time You Lost”, the trade can find helpful guides and venue directories for planning all types of group and celebration travel, from weddings to family reunions.
The BTA also has a dedicated trade page, where advisors can find digital assets, itineraries, and more.