Your Excellency the Governor
My Honourable colleagues
Board of Directors and team from the BVI Ports Authority
Senior Vice President of Operations, Disney Cruise Lines Mr. Anthony Connelly
Senior Vice President, Destination and Port Operations, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, Mr. Colin Murphy
Members of the public
Members of the media
Today, marks a milestone in our cruise tourism journey, a new beginning for the industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, this journey began less than one year ago, on May 8, 2014 when we broke ground for the expansion of this cruise pier project. At that time, I promised you a new day for our tourism product.
I promised you a new day for our cruise tourism industry, with new bigger ships and more passengers bringing new life and business opportunities for the people of the Virgin Islands. I also asked the industry to get ready!
Prior to that, on January 17 2014, my Government took a significant step forward towards stability and growth for the Virgin Islands, with the signing of the berthing agreements between Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings Limited and Disney Cruise Lines for a long-term relationship.
With these berthing agreements, we demonstrated, as a Territory, that we were moving forward on the road of progress.
I am pleased that beginning today, we will be welcoming at least a total of 425,000 passengers as Norwegian brings more than 350,000 passengers, and Disney bringing some 75,000 passengers. Of course other cruise lines will continue to enjoy the BVI offerings as well
Ladies and Gentlemen, these agreements mark the first time that we will have a guaranteed number of cruise passengers coming to our shores all year round.
We welcome the Captain, crew and passengers of the Norwegian’s Cruise Line – Getaway, on its inaugural call to the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Murphy I must say that it looks real good to see the Norwegian Getaway here at our new facility. I trust that the experience you and your passengers have today will long be remembered.
Let me also extend a very warm welcome to Mr. Connelly of Disney Cruise Lines this morning. A Disney Ship is not with us today but we are looking forward to seeing many of them in the coming months!
On behalf of the Government and people of the Virgin Islands, we thank you both for your confidence in our destination and we look forward to being the number one Caribbean stop on your cruise itinerary.
I must say that the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, and its supporting agencies and offices worldwide, have been working diligently in its marketing and public relations efforts in our key, as well as emerging markets.
We have invested heavily in the sector through initiatives like culinary tourism and the expansion of our promotions into the North America, South America and European markets.
We continue to take steps to improve air access between our major hubs, namely St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Antigua and St. Martin, and we are upgrading our major tourist attractions such as our museums and national parks.
We are improving our customer service experience by training our frontline customs and immigration staff, as well as our taxi operators.
With heightened competition around the around the world, BVI is continuing to engage in vigorous marketing initiatives, educational development and training opportunities to ensure that our brand stands out in the minds of new and repeat visitors.
We have partnered to strengthen the core of the BVI’s tourism product and its reputation by ensuring that our people are ready to respond to the rapid growth of commerce, and deliver excellent customer service at all levels.
According to the World Tourism Organisation, over the past 20 years, the worldwide demand for cruise tourism has led to some of the biggest gains within the tourism sector.
I also recently learned from the Cruise Line International Association, that cruise tourism is the fastest growing segment of leisure tourism, increasing seven point two percent annually since 1990; and doubling every decade.
The size of ships has grown, the number of ships has increased around the world, new ports have been established and existing ports have found increasing numbers of day-trip visitors and the growth for some has been tremendous.
Furthermore, the constant changes in cruise activity, and the increasing number of countries that include cruises as a key product for their tourism development, has led to many countries updating and expanding what is offered as part of their cruise tourism product.
The BVI will not be left behind!
My Government understands that vacation travel and modern cruises have combined two basic activities: accommodation and transport.
We understand that with an increasing number of leisure facilities and amenities such as beauty salons, theatres, libraries, shops, restaurants and golf courses provided on-board, cruise ships are in fact, luxury marine resorts!
It is a well-known fact that when customers take cruises, they purchase something more complex than simply the experience of being on a ship.
We know that today’s traveler has changed and their travel expectations have changed. They are looking for more than sun, sea and sand.
They are building lifetime memories and they are anticipating authentic personal experiences. It therefore means that the BVI must remain innovative, and on the cutting edge of cruising trends to re-establish our reputation as a leader in the cruise tourism industry.
I call on every stakeholder in the tourism industry to make each interaction worth remembering.
Ladies and gentlemen, tourism partners as vendors, tour operators, restaurant owners, taxi operators. businesses and BVI residents, it is up you to make memories unforgettable.
Remember, today’s cruise passengers are tomorrow’s annual repeat visitors. This means a sustainable tourism product.
I urge you to make your interactions with our new arrivals count!
I commend the Minister for Communications and Works, Honourable Mark Vanterpool, the action Minister, for staying committed to this project and steering it along the right course.
I also thank the Board of Directors of the BVI Ports Authority, the Chairman, managing director and the rest of the team for executing my Government’s vision for this project.
Today signals the promising start of an exciting new partnership for all of us!
It is a new day and a new beginning for this Territory, and we all must continue to be excited about this new direction!
Indeed, we are building a better Virgin Islands, today and for years to come.