Entertainer Tony Brannon said yesterday that he was fired from the Bermuda Tourism Board following conflicts with Tourism Minister Patrice Minors.
While Minister Minors said in a letter directed to Mr Brannon that his input was not as “constructive” as she had envisioned, he said politics continue to strangle the industry.
“They say I’m negative. I’m passionate, but I’m negative,” Mr Brannon said. “What’s negative is that they are not turning on the engines, they are not doing what they can to turn tourism around, and that’s costing the Bermudian people
He said he felt problems began after he received a message from Ms Minors regarding an article in The Royal Gazette about what was discussed during a Board retreat.
“She accused me of leaking to The Royal Gazette,” he said. “I said there were lots of people at that meeting and lots of people talk to The Royal Gazette.
“If she was so bothered by what she read, that tells me that she really didn’t like what was discussed in the retreat.”
Mr Brannon said when the Tourism Board first met in January, Ms Minors said that she knew “little” about tourism, and would be relying on the board to develop a tourism plan.
In the following months, Mr Brannon said foreign consultants were hired, causing the estimated cost of the report to rise, but work on the plan had not even begun.
“I meet people on the street that say ‘We are counting on you guys to deliver,’ but we have nothing to deliver,” he said. “In the end they could pull a rabbit out of a hat, but it would be the rabbit they want, not the rabbit Bermuda needs.
“We are in a crisis. We have got to do something different. Politics have strangled Bermuda tourism, and continue to do so.”
Among the ideas discussed were changes to the legislation that would encourage foreigners to invest in local property and the possibility of a gaming bill, but Mr Brannon said Ms Minors has already told hoteliers that a gaming bill would not be coming.
“When it comes to competing with the rest of the world, the hotels have a hand tied behind their back,” he said. “All the cruise ships have gaming onboard.”
He said that while cruise ships account for the recent increase in visitor numbers, local businesses are seeing little improvement as the ships are doing what they can to keep passengers on board.
“We have sold out to the mega-ships,” he said. “Mega-ships are very, very aggressively run businesses, and they want it all for themselves. They don’t want people to get off the boats.
“The cruise ships are getting their money, the Government is getting their money, but the public are not getting anything.”
While the Ministry of Tourism would not comment as to why Mr Brannon was released, a letter sent to him and signed by Ms Minors said: “After much reflection it has been determined that your participation as a Tourism Board member has not been as constructive as I had envisaged.”
In the letter, Ms Minors thanks Mr Brannon for his work, saying that his passion for Bermuda Tourism has been noticed.
In an official statement released by the Department of Tourism, a spokeswoman said that the release of Mr Brannon would not affect the work of the board.
“It is anticipated that the vacant Tourism Board post will be filled in due course,” the spokeswoman said.
“As this is an internal matter, the Department has declined further comment regarding the issue at this time.”