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Bermuda took a direct hit earlier this month from Hurricane Paulette, a Category 2 storm that brought high winds and heavy rain to the island Sept. 14. Thankfully, it didn’t result in any serious injuries or major structural damage, according to tourism officials, who say the island’s visitor industry was up and running again the following day.
“The Bermudian spirit always comes together in the face of adversity, and our can-do attitude is one of our community’s most valuable strengths,” said Glenn Jones, interim CEO of Bermuda Tourism Authority. “The island knows very well how to prepare for, withstand and rebound from hurricanes.”
The Bermudian spirit always comes together in the face of adversity, and our can-do attitude is one of our community’s most valuable strengths.
The island has also shown impressive resiliency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening its borders to international travelers on July 1 and managing to avoid any significant new virus case spikes during the two months since. As of Sept. 28, 181 confirmed COVID-19 cases and just nine related deaths have been reported on the island, according to Bermuda’s Ministry of Health.
International travelers (ages 10 and up) looking to visit Bermuda must provide proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test taken no more than seven days before boarding a plane to the island. Travelers will then be tested again at the airport upon arrival in Bermuda and are required to quarantine at their accommodation until results of that test are available, according to Bermuda tourism officials. The process of obtaining results takes about 24 hours.
In addition, visitors must complete online travel authorization forms and pay an administration fee of $75. Once on the island, they will undergo multiple additional COVID-19 tests administered on day four, day eight and day 14 of their visit at accessible pop-up testing centers around the island.
“We understand our protocols may seem strict to some, but they are working,” said Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer for Bermuda Tourism Authority.
We understand our protocols may seem strict to some, but they are working.
Isley says that Bermuda tourism officials are happy to be welcoming American travelers.
“While we expect a significant drop from last year’s arrivals, we are fortunate to be among the few international destinations that have been able to safely reopen our borders to welcome visitors from the U.S. and beyond,” Isley said. “We’re optimistic that our successful safety measures, close proximity to the U.S. and plentiful wide open spaces will serve as a draw for travelers, and we hope to see a steady increase in visitors as the flight volume increases.”
JetBlue, Delta Air Lines and Air Canada are currently providing service to Bermuda from Atlanta, Boston, New York City and Toronto, Isley adds.
“While we do anticipate airlines will continue to resume service to the island throughout the fall, we recognize this is an ever-evolving situation,” she said.
Eric Hrubant, founder and CEO of New York City-based CIRE Travel (a Tzell Travel Group affiliate), has a group of corporate clients flying nonstop on JetBlue to Bermuda in early October. The clients have booked a combination business and leisure stay at Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, a property managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.
Hrubant has also booked a five-night trip to Bermuda for other clients, which begins the day after Thanksgiving this year. He says the destination is now entering its low season, during which temperatures drop into the 60s.
But for Northeastern U.S. clients looking to get away quickly, the Atlantic Ocean destination is an intriguing option, he adds.
“If you want a two-hour flight to go somewhere island-like, it kind of can’t be beat,” he said, explaining that Bermuda is a popular getaway for not only sun-seekers and big game fishermen, but also golfers. “For people who are scared to be on a flight for too long, [it requires] two hours on a plane and [then] you’re on an island. And you feel like you’re going much farther than you are.”
However, canceled Delta flights scheduled to Bermuda in mid-July forced the complete cancellation of a vacation that Margie Hand, an Andavo Travel advisor in Birmingham, Ala., had booked to the destination this summer for a family of 10.
“They just ended up getting their refund on that trip and scrapping it all together,” Hand said. “They’ve decided to try and do the trip next year.”
Hand has sold Bermuda for years, and says she wouldn’t hesitate to book the destination now for travelers. However, she notes that most of her clients aren’t interested in destinations where COVID-19 pretests are required.
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“I would say 75-80% of my clients do not want to travel until they don’t have to go through the COVID-19 testing,” Hand said. “I have a lot of people who have the fear of, ‘What if I get there and I get it, and I’ve got that 14-day self-isolation and quarantine?’ That’s in the back of a lot of people’s heads.”
Meanwhile, Ray Snisky, group president of Apple Leisure Group Vacations, describes Bermuda’s entrance and testing protocols as “restrictive.”
“Our advisor and client feedback tell us that these protocols are clearly deterring new leisure bookings,” Snisky said. “There has been very little pick up for Bermuda travel for 2020 and 2021 over the last six weeks.”
Still, according to Bermuda Tourism Authority’s Isley, the island “is completely open to U.S. visitors,” and L.F Wade International Airport will unveil a new terminal in December. Several new accommodations options will open across Bermuda next year, too.
“We’ll see the opening of St. Regis Bermuda Resort and Bermudiana Beach Resort, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, as well as the completion of the spectacular Azura Bermuda, which soft-launched in 2020,” she said.
Isley also indicates that Bermuda has received significant interest in its Work From Bermuda Certificate, a program for professionals looking to work remotely while living abroad. The new option, which features a $263 application fee, allows travelers 18 and older to relocate to the island for a year while working remotely.
“As of August 2020, we’ve had more than 250 applications from around the world, with the majority coming from New York City,” Isley said.
The DetailsBermuda Tourism Authoritywww.gotobermuda.com