REMARKS BY JUNIOR MINISTER FOR TOURISM
HONOURABLE SHARIE B. deCASTRO
LAUNCH OF CULTURE AND TOURISM MONTH
NOVEMBER 1ST, 2020
Good Afternoon everyone!
Today marks the commencement of a very special merger and it is good that we are all here to witness it. On this day we formerly mold all that we are as a Virgin Islands community and people with a vital part of our economy. This is a fitting and right partnership and I wish to first and foremost commend the visionaries behind this plan.
I would like to recognise the Deputy Premier and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture and venture a little further to acknowledge all the different groups that are here in support of this remarkable initiative. In this light and in my role as Jr. Minister of Tourism, I also wish to bid you a BVILOVE welcome to Virgin Islands’ Culture & Tourism Month 2020! This is indeed a coordinated effort to honour and celebrate our cultural heritage -- inherited from the past, maintain it in the present and to preserve it for the future.
Today, I am honoured to bring you brief remarks on behalf of our Premier and Minister of Finance – Honourable Andrew A. Fahie, who was unable to attend due to prior commitments.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we would all agree that learning about our culture by reading books and surfing the internet does not necessarily provide the same satisfaction as when you experience it up close and in person – and I believe that goes for both residents and visitors.
This collaboration between Culture and Tourism was motivated by the desire for the nourishing of a nostalgic yearning for our rich cultural traditions, and the sharing of our history and culture with future generations. All while offering visitors to our shores a full experience of our uniqueness – via our cultural identity.
Today is also a true testament of our tenacity and determination as a jurisdiction, because although the COVID-19 pandemic has technically brought our tourism sector to a standstill, we are demonstrating our resilience by using this as an opportunity to repackage, diversify and put into focus another appealing reason why the British Virgin Islands should remain the destination of choice for international travelers.
This is very important for domestic tourism as well, because many of our citizens are desirous of something exciting to look forward to and to take their minds off the woes of the pandemic. They can now enjoy our rich natural and cultural heritage. The activities planned, provide our young people, future consumers and professionals, with the experiences and appreciation for local arts and craft, traditional dance, music, and food. This is the beginning of the intentional move to creatively develop programmes that will enable access for residents and guests to participate in all that our Territory has to offer.
It is very important that all Virgin Islanders – especially our young people - become ambassadors of our Territory, and the first step is for us to discover it, learn about it, live it, and fall in love with all its beauty and diversity.
This brings into focus the theme for this inaugural Culture and Tourism Month, which I believe is profound and timely “BVILOVE is our Culture.” As more of our people discover more about our Territory, they will feel a greater sense of pride and belonging. There is nothing like direct contact and interaction between people to break through artificial social barriers and allow us to share the things we all have in common. Our love for this Territory!
Because you see, as we rebrand our product, we must incorporate our diversity: from our majestic scenery, to our unspoiled beaches, but also to those important sites and experiences that tell the story of our heritage and culture. By doing this, we not only remind each other of the soul of who we are as a people, but we demonstrate to the world the true reason why we are such a warm, welcoming and vibrant people. Yes, our guests will get a remarkable opportunity to get a taste of authentic BVILOVE.
This is precisely why the collaboration between the BVI Tourist Board and the Department of Culture, alongside other cultural groups and ambassadors is such a critical and strategic move, which will ensure the viability of our tourism product while preserving our culture. Hence our 2020 slogan “Virgin Islands Cultural Roots Run Deep: Unity and Togetherness are the Crops We Reap!”
By working together, we can ensure that the tourism industry continues to grow and thrive, and continues to transform the lives of all Virgin Islanders.
We are fully aware that tourism, and culture brings people together and promotes mutual understanding and a real sense of our common humanity. In addition to serving such greater societal purpose, tourism that is centered on the places, people and stories that represent our heritage presents us with a rich and valuable economic asset - that gives us a unique advantage in such a highly competitive global market.
Studies have shown that people are increasingly searching for authentic experiences when they travel. This means that increasingly, the travelers coming to the territory are seeking an experience beyond our natural wonders and amazing environment. They also want to engage with the communities in the areas they visit. They want to leave with meaningful, memorable experiences and we must ensure that we are ready to share such with them.
As we recognise November as Culture and Tourism Month, I wish to thank Dr. Katherine Smith and the team at the Department of Culture and Mr. Clive McCoy and the team at the BVI Tourist Board for putting together such a remarkable schedule of activities to commemorate the month. I strongly encourage your support and welcome your participation. Thanks to all of you here today, those of you participating in the activities and those of you here to enjoy and learn from them.
We are taking Tourism to the next level; a level where Tourism is incorporated into every sector of this economy. Therefore, you can look forward to seeing more mergers and collaboration because BVILOVE is just that – all agencies, private and public, and the people working together to make BVI a wonderful and enjoyable place for everyone.
We are grateful that the media is also present, because it is the media who helps us to share the positive messages and inspiring stories with everyone in the Territory and all over the world. We appreciate your presence here today as it shows that you have bought into the importance and the significance of Culture and Tourism. Your writings and broadcasts share the excitement of why travelling to the Virgin Islands is a must.
My fellow Virgin Islanders, this is a day when we as a people join together to launch for the very first time as a collaboration between inter-relational entities - in that of the Department of Culture and the BVI Tourist Board; but most importantly it is a day that the Virgin Islands formerly adds our rich heritage and culture to our cherished tourism tapestry.
Please enjoy the activities planned and I wish a happy and successful Culture and Tourism Month to all.