Photo Credit: Photo credit: Bermuda Tourism Authority
CEO Tracy Berkeley on Bermuda's Uniqueness as a Year-Round Island Destination
For much of the travel and tourism industry’s history, the decision-makers have generally fit a particular demographic. It reflected in the marketing for these destinations at the expense of the actual representation of the people that inhabit that country or region. Bermuda, however, is one exception to this antiquated, unspoken rule. The island’s newly appointed CEO of Bermuda Tourism Authority, Tracy Berkeley, is not only a native, but also the organization’s first female CEO in its history.
Previously holding senior executive roles in human resources before landing at the esteemed Rosewood Bermuda, Berkeley’s path was anything, but straight and narrow. That role ultimately sparked her love of tourism, which eventually led Berkeley to taking on her current role.
Berkeley attributes her passion for the tourism industry to the privilege of being able to amplify Bermuda’s legacy. Along with the support of her team, it is one of several missions Berkeley has on the agenda to share on the global travel stage.
“I’m proud of the team,” Berkeley told Travel Noire, describing the team as passionate, hardworking and dedicated. “They understand that what they’re doing here is not career work. It is legacy work.”
Travel Noire spoke with Berkeley about her vision for Bermuda, the way travelers perceive it and what people expect from the island.
Travel Noire: What should travelers know about Bermuda in terms of its legacy? What makes it unique compared to other islands?
Tracy Berkeley: It’s difficult to describe Bermuda in words. It is one of those places that I can talk about all day. It isn’t until you get here that you understand exactly what it was that I was trying to describe to you.
The thing that is uniquely Bermudian is the fact that we are very warm. We’re extremely laid back. We will often insert ourselves into your travel plans, whether you ask for it or not. That’s how we roll here. We’re very hospitable people. We want people to have our authentic experiences.
We haven’t always been in charge of our own storytelling. We’ve allowed other people [and] other agencies to come in and tell us who we are. We’ve used words to describe ourselves that haven’t always been authentic to who we actually are. What’s different about Bermuda now is that we are now in charge of our own stories and in charge of our own storytelling. We are not just one thing, catering to one type of traveler. We have Caribbean influences, stories from the African Diaspora, Portuguese influences and Asian influences.
There’s a lot about who we are that is amazing that we have not stood in front of. There has been an intentional push to talk about ourselves in a way that is no longer aspirational, but more authentic to who we really are because we’re amazing.
TN: What are the signature events or cultural moments that are unique to Bermuda?
TB: From a cultural perspective, some of the things that we want to highlight are the Cup Match holiday. It’s actually one of the biggest holidays, which is centered around a two-day cricket match between two teams: Somerset and St. George’s.
The first day of Cup Match is Emancipation Day, [which] commemorates the freedom of enslaved people and marks the end of the legal slave trade here in Bermuda. On day two, we honor and celebrate one of Bermuda’s national heroes, Mary Prince. She was one of the first Black women to publish an autobiography of her experience here as an enslaved woman. She was born in Bermuda to an enslaved family of African descent. This makes Bermuda the only country in the world with a national holiday honoring a Black woman. Cup Match is probably the biggest cultural, political and meaningful event of our time.
We also celebrate other things, like Carnival, which happens in June. We have vegan festivals and Swizzle Fest that happen in the fall. Art month is happening in October. Restaurant weeks [take place] in January and February, and sporting events, like Black Golfers Week and Butterfield Bermuda Championship. There’s a plethora of things that you can do here in the cultural and food space.
Carnival happens the third week of June every year. Carnival [in Bermuda] feels like a small island carnival with big island production. That simply means that the event itself is so lively, but it is a welcoming atmosphere and it’s easy to navigate for those who may not have done Carnival before.
It’s warm, and you meet people on the road. It’s not intimidating. In Bermuda, you get the experience, but it’s done in an intimate way, and it’s a very festive time.
TN: What does the work you all are doing now mean to you as a native of the island and as a woman of color?
TB: I’m going to use the word legacy again, and I’m also going to talk about service. I believe that I have been called to this [role]. My route to the seat at this table was not a straightforward path, but I do believe that I am meant to lead the [Bermuda Tourism Authority] for this particular time. When my time is up, someone else will come along and continue with the work that I’m doing.
Everything that we are doing right now is intentional. We have not told our story well and authentically, and now we are doing that. We’re taking our time with telling our story with intention, and I’m hugely proud of that.
The work that we do on the inside is not just about raising awareness of the destination. The work that we do with our partners in terms of raising the banner about why the tourism industry is an industry that you should be excited about and want to get involved in is also work that I’m super proud of. It’s not the sexy work, but it’s the legacy-building work.
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.