Statement
19 January 2016 - 1:15pm

Remarks Delivered by
Chairman of the BVI Tourist Board Mr. Russell Harrigan
at the
Miami Direct Flight Announcement
January 12, 2016
BVI Finance Conference Room

Honourable Premier and Minister of Finance and Tourism, Dr. D. Orlando Smith, OBE, Deputy Premier Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering, other Ministers of Government, including our junior Ministers for Tourism and Trade and Investment, members of the private sector and the team from BVI Airways and the press, good morning and welcome.  As a habit, as Chairman of the BVI Tourist Board, I rarely speak on a tourism matter after the Hon Premier and Minister of Tourism, after all, when he speaks our role at the Board is to move to implementation.

If the late Hon. HL Stoutt was with us today he would have undoubtedly declared this an auspicious occasion, and indeed it is for our territory.   In today’s fiercely competitive global market place, consistent, reliable and competitive air access is the lifeblood of any modern economy, whether it is London trying to remain the dominant business and financial center of Europe, Dubai maintaining its posture as the crossroad to Asia or St. Vincent with its new airport trying to hitch its economy to the global tourism market.  For the BVI with an economy dominated by tourism and financial services, two very competitive sectors, it is absolutely critical for the territory’s continued success that this venture to establish direct flights to North America is successful. 

Today’s announcement is more than about direct flights to Miami, it is actually a statement about the future of the BVI and its wellbeing.  It is about the BVI stepping up to the plate and making sure that the quality of life we have become accustomed to is sustainable.  Simply put, it is about this territory being globally competitive.  It is about access to the market place whether you are in tourism, financial services, real estate, or you whether operate a car rental agency, own a restaurant, a taxi cab, a villa or an Inn as in the case of my good friend Quito Rhymer who is getting ready to rebuild the Ole Works Inn in Cane Garden Bay.  It also spells hope for the young entrepreneur who for the first time is planning to enter the growing tourism market but had doubts about reaching the market.  

When one looks at our major competitors regionally in both tourism and financial services, all of them: Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, The Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Grenada etc., have long enjoyed direct air access to North America and beyond.  You can no longer be a global player or for that matter taken seriously if you cannot connect seamlessly to the global market place. It is the same whether you are a small business or a national economy such as the BVI.

What will this connection to North America mean in a very practical way for the BVI and its economy?  It will enhance the ease of getting here to use our commercial court, a court that is globally recognized and respected, it will remove one of the single largest challenges to establishing the BVI as an arbitration center, now when the Premier approaches investors and he is asked about getting visitors here in a timely manner, he will no longer have to say “we are looking at the matter.”  As a tourism destination, we will for the first time take charge of our future and our collective objective of building a year round destination, tapping new markets, expanding our annual calendar of events and growing events such as the Lobster Fest, doing more in sports tourism, we will have an airline partner for our summer and fall packages and yes tapping into the BVI Brand in the financial services space to encourage more persons to do business here as well as vacation in the BVI.  Additionally, this flight also has the potential to create completely new business opportunities.  One such area of potential could be in sourcing new markets for our fish for the commercial and specialty market.  Think for a moment, what prevents Anegada lobsters from being on menus in Miami, New York, London or Hong Kong? I will tell you, direct air access. From Miami, the world will be our Oyster.

Making this initiative a success will require all of us working together the public and private sectors.  The Premier and his government are to be commended for taking a bold step into the future, now we must collectively step up to the plate and make it a success.  At the BVI Tourist Board we are excited about the new promise that this venture will afford the destination to deepen our tourism business.

In closing, I want to commend Bruce and his team for partnering with the BVI on this initiative.  The negotiations were long and difficult and at times and I know they wondered if we would ever get to this point. The Premier persevered. You see perseverance is in our DNA.  At a personal level, I look forward to the first flight landing at the TB Lettsome International Airport and the Premier disembarking with a long line of visitors.

Thank you.

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