13 FEB 2018: Bermuda posted its best ever year for tourism in 2017. The island broke all previous records with 692,947 total arrivals, which is the highest figure since the Bermuda Tourism Authority began keeping track of data more than 50 years ago. Tourism spending was also up 20 percent to $431 million. However, there is a huge issue now hanging over tourism - Bermuda has just become the first country in the world to revoke a law allowing same-sex marriage.  

Bermuda Governor John Rankin signed into law the Domestic Partnership Act which revokes the marriage law replacing it with 'domestic partnerships' less than a year after it was enacted.

Second class citizens

Human Rights Campaign Global, an American civil rights group, criticized the decision, warning that the legislation "jeopardizes Bermuda's international reputation and economy".

A statement from the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, painted domestic partnerships as a "watered-down" version of human rights, and said the reversal had been done to "placate conservative religious lobbyists".

The alliance added that gay visitors would "refuse to travel to a place where they are seen as second-class citizens".

An issue for cruise ships

And while LGBT travellers might well rethink travel plans, for cruise ships registered in Bermuda the new law poses a unique problem.

Princess Cruises, Cunard and P&O Cruises have ships flagged in Bermuda, which under the law means they will not be able to hold same-sex marriages aboard wherever they sail around the world.

Good news in 2017

"Bermuda's tourism industry achieved its most impressive performance in a decade last year with the number of leisure air visitors and the money they spend on-island surging to double-digit percentage growth," said Bermuda Tourism Authority CEO Kevin Dallas in a release.

"We talk about the resurgence of tourism a lot, and we talk about how far we have to go, but it is worth reflecting that is the most visitors Bermuda has ever had in a single year."

Younger visitors

Dallas said more than 80 percent of the growth came from younger travellers aged under 45.

"Almost all of our growth is coming from younger visitors. In particular, the sweet spot seems to be young professionals, folks who we have called adventure seekers and experience enthusiasts, who are in their twenties and thirties and are looking for something different," he added.

Rentals up

Dallas also highlighted the rise in private vacation rental business in Bermuda.

"People worry a lot about the growth of vacation rental and what it means for hoteliers. The good news is that with a growing pie, there's a bigger share for everyone."

The number of Airbnb listings doubled in 2017, the BTA said.


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