Bermuda businessman Dennie O’Connor, CTA, sees hospitality not as a job, but as a passion. The Bermuda native was named the 2019 International Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) of the Year, the first from outside the U.S. O’Connor is well known for happily posing for visitor pictures sporting Bermuda’s signature shorts and frangipani flower. He owns the Cosmopolitan Night Club in Hamilton and is a co-owner of Beach Boys Ltd.–Tobacco Bay in St. George’s and the Bermuda Triangle Experience at Clearwater Beach.
“We were most impressed with Mr. O’Connor’s long-standing commitment to Bermuda’s hospitality industry and all he does for others,” says John A. Marks, the former CEO of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau and chair of the 2019 International CTA of the Year judging committee. “Countless people comment that Mr. O’Connor always goes above and beyond, ensuring that guests have smiles on their faces, just as he does.”
O’Connor is considered a treasure in the local hospitality industry. “For more than 25 years, Dennie O’Connor has exemplified what Bermuda hospitality is all about,” says Karla Lacey, CTA, COO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority. “His passion and knowledge of Bermuda is what helps to set our island apart from other destinations.”
Jennifer Ysseldyke, CTA, is the programming and operations manager with Beach Boys Ltd.–Tobacco Bay, and has seen O’Connor provide complimentary drinks to guests who are celebrating special occasions and use his own vehicle to shuttle guests to points of interest. He also willingly spends his off hours helping tourists get their bearings, answer questions and pose for pictures.
“I have never felt that hospitality has been a job for me,” O’Connor explains, “but rather a passionate way of life. Hospitality is who I am and who I will always be.” Pleasing visitors has been a part of O’Connor’s life since he was three years old, helping his family make kites for the public. At 14 he served as a doorman, worked his way through hospitality until he is now a club, beach and restaurant owner.
“What really makes Dennie stand out is his unwavering pride to be Bermudian,” says Ysseldyke. “He has that ‘old’ Bermudian hospitality and charm.” That includes wearing the signature shorts, which he dons everywhere as he travels the world.
“I love wearing the iconic Bermuda shorts everywhere I go,” says O’Connor, a lifelong Bermudian resident. “I am proud to represent Bermuda without even having to utter a word.”
O’Connor has been a CTA since February 2015. He is among nearly 1,000 Bermuda Tourism Ambassadors in the CTA program that the Bermuda Tourism Authority launched in 2015 as the first program outside of the U.S.
CTAs across the network are front-line employees, volunteers, business owners, executives and government officials. Through the industry-recognized Tourism Ambassador Institute certification program, they learn about the economic importance of tourism in their destination, skills to enhance the visitor experience and details of their destination’s attractions and services. More than 50,000 hospitality workers, volunteers and advocates have been certified since the program’s founding in 2006.
O’Connor is credited with getting more than 40 of his employees to become CTAs, often by paying for their certification out of his own pocket. He’s active in the St. George’s business community and the Bermuda hospitality industry. “CTA has allowed me to broaden and deepen my knowledge of Bermuda and tourism,” he says. “It allows me to meet, network and collaborate with other incredible people in the hospitality industry, which in turn benefits the entire island.”
“This international accolade proves what we already know: Dennie O’Connor is world-class,” says Kevin Dallas, CTA, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority. “This award is also a reminder that quality service is essential to a good visitor experience and a critical part of Bermuda tourism’s comeback story.”
More than 50,000 CTAs have been certified since the founding of the Tourism Ambassador Institute (TAI) in 2006. TAI licenses and accredits local Accredited Providers, often destination marketing organizations (DMOs), to offer the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program at the local level. There are more than 17,000 active CTAs in 30 programs in the U.S. and Bermuda. CTAs work in retail, restaurants, lodging, government, nonprofits, hospitals and other settings. For more info, visit www.ctanetwork.com/
TAI, founded by industry veteran Mickey Schaefer, FASAE, CAE, CTA, customizes the CTA program for each destination through research and collaboration with the TAI Accredited Provider and local stakeholders. Schaefer has also founded The EXPERIENCE Institute (TEI). TEI helps destinations shape the total visitor experience using its first-ever consumer-driven standards, developed with more than 120,000 visitor surveys to date that give destinations vital intelligence and a framework to align the entire community around strengthening the total visitor experience. For more info, visit www.theexperienceinstitute.org/