Q&A with Hazel Clark
Director of Sports and Business Development
Bermuda Tourism Authority
Interview with Matt Ward
Before being hired as the Director of Sports and Business Development, Hazel Clark was an Olympic Track and Field Athlete with a diverse record of experience and accomplishments in television, coaching, health/wellness program administration, marketing and sales. She has extensive national and international travel experience interacting with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.
THE CLARK STORY —
The moment I decided to leave the U.S. and permanently move to Bermuda was the moment that set me on the path to the life I have now. I moved to Bermuda in 2017 to start a life with my now-husband after we met during one of my previous visits. As someone who prides herself on being a planner, this move was one of the first times I made a major decision without a detailed follow-up plan. I have a deep appreciation for Bermuda, especially as it’s a place my husband considers home, but it’s always difficult to leave home, no matter how great the future may be.
It wasn’t until I saw an ad in the newspaper for the newly created Director of Sports and Business Development role at the Bermuda Tourism Authority that I knew actually what my next move would be. I was worried I wouldn’t find something to be passionate about in my professional life, but when I saw that ad, it felt like a sign.
As a former Olympian, I had been a professional athlete for most of life and while I’ve been fortunate to with incredible companies I mentioned previously, nothing has invigorated me quite like my current work with the Bermuda Tourism Authority. After leaving the world of track and field, I’ve always looked for opportunities that carry the same spirit of challenge and competition and my work with the BTA has definitely provided that feeling.
We’ve had great success with hosting some of the world’s premier events from triathlons to PGA Championships, sailing events, and more. Although I’ve transitioned out of working directly with the island’s sports tourism to a more holistic business development role, being able to have had an influence in an industry and place I love has been incredibly rewarding. However, none of this would have been possible if I had never taken the leap to move to Bermuda.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
How much of a tourism falloff impacted Bermuda tourism commencing in March 2019 and extending through 2020?
In 2019, Bermuda experienced record levels of visitors to the island and this trend was expected to continue throughout 2020. But then the pandemic hit. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bermuda government undertook decisive action closing the island’s borders for several months to ensure the safety of its residents. Upon reopening of its borders, Bermuda implemented a variety of COVID-19 protocols designed to help keep its residents and all travelers safe.
Like many other tourism destinations worldwide the island was slow to regain visitors in the face of the changing nature of the pandemic and traveler’s comfort levels. In the meantime, Bermuda turned to other innovative solutions to bolster tourism and local businesses including launching the Work From Bermuda Certificate, a digital nomad program granting them residency for a year, virtual components for signature events like Restaurant Weeks, and initiatives encouraging locals to support on-island businesses.
How much of a resurgence has there been in 2021 and what do you see happening as we move into 2022?
Our tourism numbers have not yet returned to 2019 levels but there has been an improvement from last year’s drop-off. Moving into 2022, we remain positive regarding travel thanks to signs like the length of stay for leisure visitors and visitors overall continuing to surpass 2019 figures. It will be a gradual process to return to the levels we were at in 2019, but the Bermuda Tourism Authority is dedicated to the task. We are currently working with the government to assist with updating our travel protocols based on the latest testing technology and global vaccination rates to be less of an obstacle to attracting travelers to the island.
The most underappreciated element when visiting Bermuda is what?
Bermuda is known for many things from our beautiful pink sand beaches to turquoise waters, but I’d have to say the sports tourism industry could stand to be recognized more by the average traveler. Globally Bermuda’s standing is acknowledged by some of the most influential names in the business from the USTA to the World Triathlon Association to the PGA and this recognition allows us to host some of their most prestigious events.
How important has it been for overall exposure and tourism given the staging the PGA Tour’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship held in early November?
Events like the PGA Tour’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship underscore Bermuda’s sports credibility and capabilities while exposing us to a well aligned visitor audience. ·
How big a role does the various golf offerings throughout Bermuda have on revenue generation for tourism?
Bermuda is an ideal location for golf, with the highest concentration of golf courses in the world for its size. Bermuda’s proximity to the Northeast United States positions us an ideal winter hub enabling us to strengthen our year-round tourism product.
Additionally, our signature golf events, properties and packages have enabled us to extend revenue from other tourism sectors and deliver tremendous value to the destination. Golf visitors spend significantly more than leisure visitors and this impact is felt island wide.
What was the genesis for the Black Golf weekend (played November 5-6, 2021) and how successful was the event?
The Bermuda Tourism Authority created the Black Golfers week to amplify the rich history of black golf in Bermuda and to enhance the accessibility and inclusivity of the sport of golf to members of the black community. Attracting a diverse group of travelers and promoting awareness of the island’s black history has long been a goal of the Bermuda Tourism Authority and this was a great opportunity to extend this narrative into our strong sports tourism arm.
By approximate percentages what countries represent the largest grouping of visitors based on most recent data?
Based on our most recent visitor’s report, the US (83%) is responsible for the largest number of visitors, followed by the UK with 10%.
Bermuda has had a reputation in being an expensive place to vacation — how valid is that and what steps are done to ensure Bermuda is a place where a variety of income levels can visit?
Bermuda has a reputation for luxury travel as the island is home to a variety of top-tier properties like the St. Regis Bermuda and Hamilton Princess & Beach Club in addition to being a superyacht destination. However, the island welcomes all travelers with the same warm hospitality. Avoiding the peak travel season and visiting during fall, or what locals call “the secret season”, is a great way to keep travel costs down. The island has also introduced Airbnb, another option to reduce travel costs.
Fall in Bermuda boasts warm weather and sunshine, and with a low likelihood of rainfall, it’s the perfect time for outdoor activities like hiking, boating, enjoying spiny lobster season and so much more. Another way would be taking advantage of the amazing deals and packages the island’s partners offer. These packages are offered year-round and target everyone from golf lovers to cruise takers to spa fanatics, giving them a chance to experience the island’s best at a discounted rate.
What makes Bermuda standout among all other nearby islands – whether in the general Atlantic or Caribbean areas?
There truly isn’t just one unique thing about Bermuda, but rather a variety of them that make it standout against other Caribbean destinations. Bermuda’s unique location in the Atlantic provides an extraordinarily pleasant climate that rarely sees extremes of either hot or cold and the northernmost coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean are just offshore.
In addition, as Bermuda was historically one of the first stop for sailors between Europe, Africa, and the Americas the culture of Bermuda is a unique mixture of all those influences. Aside from the people, this fusion of influences can be seen easily in our culture and cuisine.
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