ONE-ON-ONE PRESS STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
Premier’s Conference Room
March 8, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
I thank you for being here this afternoon. Today, I wish to speak on a few areas in Tourism development.
Over the last 40 plus years, we have all watched with pride as the tourism industry of the BVI grew and developed into a solid pillar of our economy.
Today, we are living in a more competitive tourism market than ever before. We continue to see that other destinations are aggressively seeking out visitors and continuously raising the bar in terms of service, marketing and other incentives.
It is the responsibility of this Government; therefore, to ensure that here in the BVI we are not only keeping up with the rapidly changing competitive landscape, but establishing the BVI as a leader in the field.
That is why in 2005, I made a ‘visionary call’ for us to purchase the Prospect Reef Resort.
The overarching objective was driven by the need then to improve the BVI Tourism offering through the development of a large capacity hotel with modern conference facilities and other amenities.
At that time, I wanted to add more quality jobs to our workforce, and I wanted to see more opportunities created for Virgin Islanders to participate in the project development and operations where we could all contribute to the Territory’s long term economic growth.
Today, I am still of the same mindset as we continue to make steps forward in seeing Prospect Reef Resort develop into a world class hotel facility.
As you are aware, ICA (BVI) Group Corp was awarded the opportunity to complete the development of Prospect Reef Hotel. In December 2016, we signed a memorandum of understanding with them, which sets the framework for progressing with the re-development of Prospect Reef Resort.
Within the coming months, we expect to sign the development agreement with ICA with an aim to begin rebuilding the property to a standard that would attract business and leisure clientele.
Along with offering exceptional accommodation for the leisure traveler, we expect that the hotel will undergo major renovations and improvements aimed at making it a full-service business hotel with proper conference facilities. This is important as we want to continue to expand into the business traveler market offering a modern business centre, and conference rooms that meet the highest international standards. This is one of the reasons why reliable internet access throughout the Territory is important.
For a very long time we have seen large business conferences consider the BVI as a host, only to go elsewhere in the region due to the lack of facilities. It is our intention to see a centre that will complement any other conference facility in the Territory.
I believe that large conferences can bring hundreds of guests to our islands in one swoop. That means more guests at hotels throughout the Territory, more diners in our restaurants, more customers in our taxis and more shoppers in our shops and stores.
Towards this end, we have reinstituted the five-member board of directors of the Prospect Reef Management Company Ltd. I am pleased that Mrs. Delma Maduro Chairman of the Board, along with directors: Mr. Basil “Bobby” Smith, Mr. David Abednego, Mr. David “Allen” O’Neal and Mr. K’nal Thomas have agreed to serve in this capacity.
We are excited about the development of this project and the opportunities it will create for our people and the revenue it will provide from this high quality accommodations, with the services offered in many five star hotels around the world.
As you know, we are also positioning the BVI to become the yachting capital of the world.
This means Government through the BVI Tourist Board doing its part in marketing the destination as a premier sailing destination. But, there is another important part to this equation — Industry stakeholders have to do its part to ensure the success of the sector.
Tourism is all of our business!
Today, I congratulate Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) on its reopening and for honouring its commitment to invest in maintaining the BVI as a key destination for Super yachts.
On March 1st 2017, after nine months closed to the public, YCCS opened its doors with a staff compliment of 46. I am particularly pleased that YCCS welcomed back most of its former employees and have grown the staff by 20.
The owners of the club spent approximately $3Million to improve the facility to meet the growing needs of the global superyacht community.
There are now two restaurants and bars at YCCS; the Azzurra restaurant in the Clubhouse and the new, informal waterside restaurant, Bar Aqua.
I have now learned that there will also be two new guest suites at the Club where services offer range from wellness services; personal training in a fully equipped gym to yoga and pilates classes. I always believe we have to diversify our offerings because today’s tourists want more, and we have to meet them where they are.
During this month of March, YCCS hosts the Rolex Swans Regatta and the Loro Piana Super Yacht Regatta. The Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean kicked off on March 1st and wrapped up on the 5th. I was there for the closing ceremony, and noted that 18 boats participated in that event. I look forward to seeing much more at this event next year.
Next week, March 10-13, the 7th edition of the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta and Rendezvous takes place and will include 17 sailing yachts and 3 motor yachts. So, it is good to see that action is happening, and that YCCS is open for business, as promised.
With the operations, we expect that economic activity will be generated in the Territory as the Yacht Club purchases goods and services to keep its business in operation.
I will now turn my attention to my recent trip to St. Kitts and share some information with you about BVI’s presence at the 64th Meeting of the OECS on March 3rd.
During the meeting, heads of government had the opportunity to be updated on many of the pressing issues affecting our region.
Among the issues discussed were finding strategic measures to strengthen the functioning of our shared court system — the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
After a fruitful discussion, measures were approved centered on an agreement to upgrade the current case management system to make it a fully electronic system. This is expected to increase the efficiency of the court and allow for electronic filing of documents.
We also discussed the issue of the impact of Brexit on the region as we recognised that some programmes could be affected as the OECS also participates in European Union (EU) funded projects and initiatives, from which the BVI in turn also benefits.
One example of this type of project is the Global Climate Change Alliance project on Climate Change Adaptation.
Through this regional OECS project funded by the EU, drainage works in the Cane Garden Bay and Brewer’s Bay areas are being conducted. The project also includes the Retrofitting of the Sewerage Treatment plant in Cane Garden Bay.
The revetment project in Cane Garden Bay is also a part of this initiative. Altogether, approximately €543,755.00 has been allocated to the BVI for these projects. So, we saw the need to discuss what Brexit means for the organisation and our region, and how we all can work together to create avenues to enhance functional cooperation.
We also held discussions on air services in the region and were updated on the need to harmonise the legal and regulatory standards across the region. This is identified as a barrier to intra- OECS airline operations. We recognised that the approach of creating an open skies regime would make it easier for air service providers to operate in the region, and steps will be taken to further advance this initiative. As a part of this strategy, greater emphasis will also be placed on promoting greater networking among the region.
I was very pleased to have been able to participate in this meeting, and found the information received and relationships forged as having tremendous potential benefit to this Territory.
Furthermore, these discussions no doubt cemented in my mind the need for my Government to continue to push for significant advancement in policies that facilitate the improvement of our capability and capacity.
As a Government, we will continue to do what is necessary to strengthen and build our tourism sector and our international relationships so that Virgin Islands can further enhance its position in the regional and global economy.
I now welcome your questions.