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tourism plan(ning) in bermuda, part 2

Reputation - commonly held opinion of a person's character. When you refer to Bermuda, it is the collective of our actions that forms the reputation we have as we seek to entice tourists to our island in greater numbers.

image: bermuda tourismThe new Bermuda National Tourism Master Plan (apologies in advance for the simplification) clearly anticipates a slew of built structures and more, or more energised, activities that help overcome our challenges and speak to our strengths. A kind of "If we build it, they will come". But will they?

Community reputation is more than important, it is crucial. As succinctly put by Scott Doyon, writing for Placemakers in the article "Community Reputation: Actions Speak," 

Cities think they can simply position themselves as what people want them to be — A great place to do business! A great place to live! A friendly place to visit! — but they can’t. Because they are what they are.

Doyon is writing about US communities and, as he discovered, there is a way of finding out how loudly actions frame a community's reputation. Heboring states, image: points to the cheerfully titled blog, no upside, where Renee DiResta, googled, for each American state, "Why is [state] so" to see what Americans think about each other - essentially an overview of stereotypes and reputations. She sorted and mapped the top results for each state and wrote about it in the blog post "Why are Americans So...

This is fascinating reading; and if the topic were not quite so serious, it would be hilarious. Some examples:

Why is Colorado: so cold, so healthy, so awesome, so skinny
Why is Alabama: so racist, so good, so good at football, so obese 
Why is Delaware: so business friendly, so small, so boring, so popular for corporations

Anyway, I googled the same thing for Bermuda - "Why is Bermuda so" - because I'm that curious, and I got:

Why is Bermuda: so mysterious (the Triangle), so expensive.

I don't need to explain why those top two responses are not wonderful, so back to the National Tourism Plan.

Of the top ten challenges listed in the Tourism Plan, no.1 is "Lack of clear positioning and brand identity" and no. 10 is "Low investment appeal: high investment cost and high operational costs". Both obliquely speak to our reputation as being expensive - if you accept our brand identity is not quite as unclear as the Plan attests. 

The challenge for Bermuda is it takes our whole island to change a reputation for the better. It's not easy. We do not control all the variables. It'll help, though, if there is more variety in decision-makers and action-takers around the table (yes, I hark back to part 1 and the dearth of urban planners involved in the Plan) and there is a bold acknowledgment of our reputation.

tourism plan(ning) in bermuda, part 1

The new National Tourism Plan for Bermuda is in the news and, along with its media campaign, is a hot topic of conversation these days. I erred in entering into a Plan discussion on Facebook and then made a swift exit when I realised one could spend all day there (Bermuda National Tourism Discussion Group, if you have the patience).

Still, the Plan warrants intelligent consideration by Bermuda's urban (town) planners - both those in private practice and those working for the Bermuda Government. Why? Because many of the ideas and actions will involve one or other or both sets of planners to come to fruition, and yet I can see little evidence that any of us are connected with this Plan. Please, someone, correct me if I'm wrong.

nonsuch island, identified as part of the eco-beach and nature productBermuda is on a journey to re-launch itself. Five specific hubs or "centres of characterized tourism interests" are identified in the Plan as unique destinations with attractions and opportunities. The five hubs are: St. George's World Heritage Destination and St. David's Island, Hamilton, South Shore Area, Royal Naval Dockyard and Offshore Bermuda. Aligned with the hubs are seven tourism products, which are to be demand drivers: Cultural, Business and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, events), Sports, Leisure and Entertainment, Nautical, Eco-beach and Nature and Cruise Tourism.

It was the South Shore Area hub that grabbed my attention because the aborted (for me) Facebook chat focussed on the development potential of the South Shore Parks.

So that you know, the Bermuda National Parks Act 1986 designates South Shore Park as a protected area which 

shall be managed in a manner to encourage conservation and enjoyment of the natural, historic and educational features of these areas with a minimum of commercial activity.

Setting aside whether using one acre out of 48 is "minimum commercial activity", it is striking that many of the identified business opportunities - real or pie sky-ish - will likely necessitate an application for planning permission at some point. It would be good to be an involved participant early in the development game. It would be good to see - and it may be happening in the background - the Department of Planning's planners constructively engaged early too. More importantly, those delivering or expected to deliver key products - arts and cultural organisations, water sports companies, residential/hotel/marina developers - need to be at the table as well. 

Much of what the National Tourism Plan proposes depends on connectivity, communication and cooperation. You know the saying: If it's about us, don't do it without us.