REMARKS BY JUNIOR MINISTER FOR TOURISM
HONOURABLE SHARIE B. DECASTRO
LAUNCH OF BVILOVE TOURISM CAMPAIGN
MONDAY, 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2020
Good afternoon to each and every one. I recognise the protocol as established.
This is a very exciting day for us, as we stand on the verge of what will be one of the defining moments in the story of the British Virgin Islands, and I am proud to be here joining hands in the spirit of teamwork as we seek to move the Tourism industry another step forward.
I wish to start by thanking the hard-working management and staff of the BVI Tourist Board for always rising to the occasion whenever our Territory needs you.
This is one of the reasons why we are a resilient people and why nothing keeps us down for long.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria, in 2017, caused a devastating blow to our Tourism industry. But within months we pulled together and swiftly revived our products and started receiving visitors.
By the end of 2019, through the collaborative efforts of the BVI Tourist Board, Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park and the BVI Ports Authority – and not forgetting the intervention of the Premier who left the Budget debate, flew to Miami and engaged Cruise Industry Executives – we saw our tourist arrivals, and in particular cruise arrivals, heading back up to pre-Irma levels. Tourism revenue continued to make major contributions towards our Territory’s financial strength especially at a time when other sectors were under strain from external forces.
The future looked promising.
In November 2019, the Honourable Premier delivered your new Government’s second budget – the first after the transitional budget that was read in April and a budget that was custom designed to suit the vision of your new Government.
Subsequently, the Government’s vision for transforming the Virgin Islands into a leading regional economy by 2025 was unveiled. The strategic outline focused on a deliberate approach through innovation, entrepreneurship and local and foreign investments. The new budget underscored our mission to diversifying the BVI’s economy and in particular our Tourism sector to target niche areas such as meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.
Many initiatives were planned and budgeted for and the BVI was poised for success!
Then, COVID-19 appeared on the scene and turned the world upside down.
Of course, the economies that are impacted the most are those that depend on travel and tourism – economies like ours.
COVID-19 has indeed thrown major obstacles in our course. It has delayed our journey and it has changed the landscape. Now, that does not mean we have abandoned our vision and our goals.
COVID-19 has not dulled our stunning sunsets, has not soiled our white sandy beaches, has not evaporated our pristine waters and definitely has not taken the wind out of our ideal sailing and diving locations. Our Tourism products are still awe-inspiring as ever and will remain in high demand when the global Tourism industry reopens.
I know this to be true because while our Tourism industry is part of a larger industry that spans beyond our shores, we remain competitive.
As such, COVID-19 has not tarnished our brand nor affected our ability to diversify. Instead, it has renewed our commitment to improving our sector and strengthening our competitiveness, while shoring up our Tourism product offerings.
If nothing else, COVID-19 has signalled to us that we must become more innovative, we must do so accurately and we must do it fast!
Reflecting on the past few months, most if not all of you will agree that we all got an opportunity to rekindle our love for the BVI – our home.
We were all able appreciate these Virgin Islands a lot more.
We reconnected with the beauty of our sunsets and beaches, and the serenity of our way of life.
Just take one look at the news today and you will see demonstrations of chaos and dysfunction across the world. This is why we should develop an even greater appreciation for the love and harmony that exists on these shores.
All of these things reinforce that our brand is love – BVILOVE.
BVILOVE is our warm people, it’s our appetising food, and it is our unspoilt beaches and environment as well as our rich and vibrant culture.
With a myriad of competition especially when COVID-19 travel restrictions have been lifted, our mantra of BVILOVE must stand out and give us the competitive edge we need.
Now, we understand the concept of BVILOVE. It is a highlight of intrinsically who we are as a people and the unique experiences available on our shores! It is also the exciting energy in our going green initiative. That’s right BVILOVE also means caring for our environment.
But how do we show BVILOVE in our Tourism offering?
You see, our economy thrives from persons visiting and patronising our local businesses. Therefore, it is important that they have the best experience that any destination has to offer.
We must remember that one negative interaction can ruin someone’s vacation or discourage them from investing in our businesses.
In any event, BVI people are a loving people – and we must let our BVILOVE shine!
So today I take the opportunity to challenge each of us to demonstrate our BVILOVE by keeping the environment clean and presentable. Now, this is not limited to our national parks; it is keeping the entire Territory sparkling. In this light, let us cease from indiscriminate dumping immediately as this will hurt our Tourism product.
Before I close let us all consider that as your Government begins to look towards finalising plans for reopening our borders to visitors, as our community adjusts to life in the “New Regular”, and as we recognise that the global Tourism market will be even more fiercely competitive than we have been accustomed to, it is imperative that we get everyone on board.
Let it ring true by all of us…that BVILOVE is indeed our way of life.
We must do this, so that when we market the BVI as a Luxury Tourism Brand for locals and visitors to love and embrace, such a super quality experience will be uniquely authentic.
We must surpass expectations in delivering this, and every visitor shall leave feeling that they received an unparalleled experience.
When we do this, we show that we love our BVI.
This is indeed very exciting and while we may need a little time to adjust to some of the inevitable changes, I guarantee that the new rebranded strategy will excite you and you will see that together with BVILOVE we can achieve great things – far beyond what we have conceived in the past.
BVILOVE is about our BVI identity.
It is about telling the world who we are as a destination.
Ultimately, BVILOVE is an opportunity for us to tell our unique story, share our exceptional home, preserve our valuable assets and push our Territory forward as a luxury Tourism destination.
I am excited and you should be as well, so my fellow Virgin Islanders and friends please join me in expressing to the world our authentically pure BVILOVE.
I would like to thank you for your patience during these challenging times and also thank you in advance for coming on board.