BERMUDA CONTINUES TO IMPRESS ON THE WORLD SPORTS STAGE
By Annabel Cooper
When it comes to hosting international sporting events, Bermuda has proven itself not just as a world-class venue, but one with the knowledge and capability to compete with the best, even during a pandemic.
Sports tourism has become an integral focus for the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), particularly in the “core sports” of golf, sailing, tennis and endurance. But what are the benefits to Bermuda of hosting such events, even when spectators are limited, and what safeguards have been, and are being, used to protect against the onslaught of Covid-19?
“We plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Hazel Clark, director of sports business development at the BTA. “We have three scenarios aligned with each event that we have planned. We work with health officials and the government to put different scenarios in place. Our goal is to never have to cancel and always be adaptable.”
Successful protocols include “having different participants in bubbles and making sure they stay in those bubbles,” she said. “There are so many things to think about when thinking about protocols. The way the food and drinks are served, the way that our local vendors and service providers engage with participants. With SailGP we were diligent in making sure there was no cross exposure.”
The safety protocols have so far paid off. The Bermuda Championship last year, for example, was the first PGA event to re-admit spectators and proved to the world that Bermuda could host an international event safely.
Even though spectator numbers were down considerably on the previous year, KPMG’s economic impact assessment credited the event with generating $13.2 million for the Island’s economy and Bermuda achieved international media exposure valued at an astonishing $15.6 million compared to $4.2 million in 2019.
“The Bermuda Championship set the bar and was an example to other destinations on how to safely, successfully deliver sporting events of that magnitude,” said Ms Clark. “It was the only event globally able to do that at that time.”
Because of these successful events, which also include last year’s Gold Cup sailing and rugby World Tens Series, several global sports federations approached the BTA about future opportunities and they also received partnership requests from the northeast of the United States. This bodes well for Bermuda’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
In the meantime, though, 2021’s calendar remains a busy one including, among other events, Bermuda Racquet Weekend, World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championship, International 505s World Championship, the American Junior Golf Association’s Junior Bermuda Championship and, for the first time, the Bermuda Black Golf Summit and Championship, taking place in November as part of Bermuda Golf Diversity Week.
“This is the first time any event like this has ever been delivered globally,” said Ms Clark. “When I looked at our sports business development strategy and saw golf as one of our key sports, I heard a lot from people that they only cater to one demographic. I felt there was an opportunity to attract a diverse demographic. This is attracting African American travellers.”
While the financial side is important, sports is about more than just money, and for each event, Ms Clark considers the impact on our community. A former Olympian herself who grew up attending world-class events, she said: “I remember seeing these people participating and how it inspired me.”
In this respect, in addition to the Black Golf Summit, she is particularly looking forward to October’s triathlon.
“Having Flora Duffy back home is very exciting,” she said. “For the community elements and legacy elements, that will be very impactful. Here’s Flora Duffy, she’s from the same place as you and she’s the best in the world!” n