Statement
3 May 2016 - 4:30pm

ONE-ON-ONE REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR FINANCE DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
3:00 p.m.

Good afternoon to you the members of the media, and I thank you for being here to yet another one-on-one rapport with me.

This afternoon I want to share with you, information on my Government’s commitment to providing support to the judicial system namely the Commercial Court and I also want to speak about the upgrading of Virgin Gorda properties to enhance our tourism industry.

First, I will speak about the Commercial Court.

The judicial system of the Virgin Islands is critical to the social and economic health of the Territory, and my Government is committed to providing whatever support that we can to ensure that that judicial system is effective and efficient. 

Since its establishment in 2009, our Commercial Court has been very successful due largely to the efficiency with which matters have been listed, heard and decided and the range and quality of judgments at every level - first instance, Court of Appeal and Privy Council.

Our Commercial Court now has a stellar international reputation which, in turn, has made it invaluable for the litigation of an increasing number and variety of significant commercial disputes.

Indeed, the efficient and effective operation of the court is a fillip to our financial services industry.

Recognising the value of an effective and efficient judiciary to the Territory's commercial sector, including the financial services industry, my Government is pleased that in recent weeks, the Chief Justice has appointed additional judges to the Court to keep pace with its growing and increasingly complex caseload, in order to maintain the efficiency of the court.

Mr. Justice Gerhard Wallbank and Mr. Justice Jules Sher QC have been appointed to serve in the Commercial Court for specific periods.

We expect that additional announcements of further appointments and additional resources will soon be forthcoming.

I will turn to tourism, more so: Virgin Gorda.

Tourism around the world is growing in importance as an economic driver, and here in the British Virgin Islands.

To remain competitive, the BVI as a tourist destination must just therefore ensure that it is trending, and doing what is necessary to make this destination look good and feel good.

For decades Virgin Gorda has been the crown jewel of the BVI. And then more so has played the centre role in our tourism market.

In fact, this crown jewel of the Virgin Islands has been a leading premium destination recognised by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and in some of the leading worldwide publications like Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast.   

And, we expect that this trend of being a top destination continues.

In financial services, the role of the Government is to create the right policy settings and laws to maximise the potential for sustained growth.

Government’s role is to keep with the constantly changing of international laws and continuous shifting of the goal post, while the industry’s role is to ensure that the jurisdictions meet the needs of their customers.

In tourism, the role of the Government in keeping the sector competitive is different.

Government creates an environment that facilitates smart investment policies like the revised Hotel Aid Ordinance, and ‘game changing’ initiatives like air access to keep the destination globally competitive.

At the same time, the tourism private sector drives the economy through enhancement and upgrades to their properties and the overall guest experience.

For example, earlier this year, Rosewood Little Dix announced a major upgrade of the 52-year-old resort. When completed, we expect that when this iconic resort reopens, it will continue to position the BVI as a leader in the regional tourism market.

My Government is mindful of the impact of the temporary closure of tourism establishments on our people, the Virgin Gorda community and the economy.

That is why we have always swiftly swung into action to facilitate and support the affected workers.

Last year, we did so successfully with putting in place a Help Desk to spearhead our efforts in the case of Biras Creek. We were able to help place almost 70 percent of the workers.

In the case of Little Dix Bay, we have put a similar system in place with the assistance of the Junior Minister for Tourism Honourable Archibald Christian working closely with a cross section of relevant Government agencies and the Representative for the Ninth District Honourable Hubert O’Neal to mitigate and manage the implications of the closure.

The status of the Little Dix Bay workers as of today is as follows: 

  • The Help Desk we have set up has a total of 106 staff registered.  We are currently awaiting the number of  employees who have found jobs so far;  some have been made offers, while other were awaiting the closure;
  • On April 6 and 7 we partnered with the resort and held a successful Job Fair which saw more than half of the employees and 26 prospective employers in attendance. 
  • Over 100 employees sought employment opportunities with the renovation and construction teams led by James Todman Construction. We expect that a number of them will be hired.  
  • Two international properties in Florida and New York are also offering employment and internship to affected workers.

The Help Desk has been quite instrumental in preparing employees for the transition, and it remains open to meet the needs of those persons who will be seeking placement.

Similarly, the recently announced upgrades at Yacht Club Costa Smerelda (YCCS) will also help to maintain Virgin Gorda and the BVI’s position as leaders in the global mega yacht space. YCCS also recognise that the bar for tourism is rising globally, and so it has decided to expand and upgrade its product offerings to help the BVI maintain its name as a premier yachting destination.

We expect that when YCCS reopens, the expanded marina facilities would meet the demand of the growing clientele. We expect that the expanded accommodations would attract more visitors. And, we expect that the employees would be rehired, along with more Virgin Islanders as the need for personnel will increase from 25 to 40 when the expansion is completed. 

With the upgrades and expansions taking place on Virgin Gorda, we have no doubt that it will help to reposition that island, thus ensuring a bright future for the people of Virgin Gorda.

As Minister for Tourism, what I am looking forward to most of all is the significant enhancement and the expansion of many employment and business opportunities for Virgin Gordians when works on these properties have completed.

For example, I anticipate several opportunities for small business development and the spin off business for tour operators, restaurants, taxis, car rentals, charters, and other businesses providing services to these resorts.

I encourage all of these tourism industry partners to stay sharp, and to stay competitive and to think creatively and innovatively about their product offering because with the improvement of properties comes increased customer expectations.

I encourage the businesses to continue to draw on the enhancement services of the National Business Bureau under the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs. 

Additionally, I am also keen about the new marketing potential for the BVI.

Whatever we do, we must continue to look beyond the now to increase our tourism market share.

As the momentum to improve the tourism infrastructure to support our tourism industry continues to build, I applaud the different resorts for taking the giant steps to build their brand.

My Government will continue to work with all properties in the Territory to ensure that the development continues to go as planned. And, we look forward to the completion and the re-employment of Virgin Gordians.

My Government will remain steadfast pursuing wider initiatives like positioning the BVI globally to attract the right visitor.

In closing let me be clear, the BVI tourism economy in the global space is quite visible. Its continued success is based on what we do collectively to make a difference in our product offering.

As I said last week when I announced the ‘one BVI’ strategy, tourism is everybody’s business.

As a Government, our role is to constantly ensure that this sector remain competitive as we seek to ensure the quality of life for our citizens.

In the same vein, the responsibility of the private sector and the public is to help BVI to become the ‘game changer’ by continually recognising the holistic need for constant improvement of our product offering as One BVI to give us an edge on the competition.

In so doing, we can all make the BVI economy sustainable for future generations.

I thank you.  

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