Statement by the
Minister for Communications and Works,
Honourable Mark Vanterpool
At Fourth Sitting of the Third Session of the
Third House of Assembly
The State of the Cruise Industry
Thursday April 26, 2018
Madam Speaker, permit me to update this Honourable House and by extension the general public, on The State of the Cruise Industry in the Virgin Islands.
The 2017 hurricanes caused severe damage to our tourism infrastructure and Madam Speaker, while significant progress has been made to return the Territory to some level of normalcy, seven months on, we still have a long way to go.
As a result, there has been a setback with the resumption of the vibrant cruise ship schedule established prior to the onslaught of the hurricanes.
The major cruise lines, Disney and Norwegian, which brought thousands of passengers to our shores monthly, were forced to suspend visits to Tortola.
However, due to the quick restoration efforts by workers in the relevant Government Departments and Statutory Bodies, along with the private sector, we were able to attract some of the smaller ships at the beginning of this year.
We have had cruise passengers visiting on board the Costa Pacifica, Marella, Discovery, P&O Adonia, Viking Sea, Sea Dream and others.
Madam Speaker, in order to get fully back on track, we have a lot more work to be done and the Honourable Premier has given me an urgent and specific mandate to get the job done.
He has committed to assisting and has allocated the necessary funds to help to revitalize the industry.
At this juncture, Madam Speaker, I can report that the Government of the Virgin Islands is working diligently, along with key cruise stakeholders, towards the full restoration of the destination.
Over the past week, I have been expediting efforts, along with my team from the Ministry of Communications and Works, visiting sites and meeting with stakeholders. We have been meeting with taxi operators, restauranteurs and other businesses operating in the areas most frequented by tourists.
We also continue to engage multi Government agencies, such as the Waste Management Department, as we work to continue to clean up the Territory.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to report that an increasing number of hotels, private villas and restaurants are becoming operational, 70% of historical sites are open, an average of 57% of retail businesses in Tortola and Virgin Gorda are now fully operational, 81% of vehicles are available for land tours, 65% for sea tours and 77% of car rental agencies are open.
Most of the beaches including Cane Garden Bay are open to receive cruise passengers. We will continue over the next four weeks to improve the amenities and vending on the land and sea destinations.
Madam Speaker, Tortola Pier Park formally re-opens on May 25th, when 80% of its businesses will be operational.
The businesses in the larger buildings (1, 2 and 3) are ready to be fitted out. The handing over process has already begun in building 1, and buildings 2 and 3 will be handed over for tenant fit outs before the end of this month.
On the tourist route, the areas of priority include the clearing of cables, bushes, tree limbs and the like from the roads, resurfacing of roads, cleaning of beaches, and ensuring swim areas are clear of obstruction.
Madam Speaker, compared to other destinations damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Territory has been slow to sufficiently prepare to receive the larger cruise ships such as Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines. This message was clearly conveyed to me in meetings held with FCCA Operations Committee last week in Miami, Florida.
Madam Speaker, it is encouraging to report that, despite the fact that the BVI is delayed with its restoration efforts, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association FCCA, who I met with last week in Miami, has expressed their commitment to our destination and their readiness to return.
We are now forecasting the return of Disney Cruise Lines in July and Norwegian Cruise Lines in October.
Madam Speaker, I want to publicly commend all those who have worked tirelessly to assist in the clean up efforts so far. We have shown national pride and should be proud.
However, Madam Speaker, I must appeal to those persons across the islands who fail to recognize the importance of joining hearts and hands in the Territory-wide campaign.
There are some residents who continue to ignore pleas to stop the indiscriminate dumping of bulky waste on the road sides. It must be emphasized that this creates an unsightly and unhealthy environment and negatively impacts our tourism product.
Madam Speaker, the restoration efforts must be done in partnership with the community.
Our Territory is heavily dependent on tourism for jobs and we must work together and do our part to clean up our surroundings, restore our buildings and tools of the trade and improve our public infrastructure.
I am committed; our Premier is committed; this Government is committed; and the British Government is committed.
The appeal, today, is for every citizen and resident to further rise to the challenge and let us continue the rebuilding of a stronger, smarter, greener, better Virgin Islands.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.