TOURISM MESSAGE BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE DR. THE HONOURABLE ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
8th November, 2016
November is Tourism Month.
We continue as a Territory to join with the rest of the Caribbean region in recognising November as Caribbean Tourism Month and taking the opportunity to highlight our tourism offerings, and the contributions of tourism to the livelihood of our people and the sustainable development of our destination.
I see this month’s focus as an important precursor to the start of the much anticipated peak season.
Statistics from the Central Statistics Office show that at the end of August this year, we welcomed a total of 781,465 up 27.1 percent from the same period in 2015 including 465,870 cruise visitors, an increase of 47.9 percent; 301,841 overnight, an increase of 3.6 percent; 12,754 day trippers, an increase of 52.1 percent. It also shows that tourism continues to contribute over 30 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and directly employs one in every three persons in the Territory.
Tourism is the lifeblood of this economy, and we must individually and collectively continue to reposition the British Virgin Islands as a tourism destination globally and help to grow the overnight arrivals.
Tourism continues to be one of the world’s fastest growing and highly competitive industries with more countries engaging in welcoming visitors to enjoy their product offerings. That is why it is important that we continue to review our product and see how we can develop niche markets to attract guests who are looking for more than sun sea and sand.
We have natural assets that are important to having a successful tourism economy.
We have a spectacular marine and terrestrial landscape that has built our reputation as the sailing capital of the Caribbean.
We are blessed with the historical and cultural attributes.
We have cultivated a unique guest experience that keeps guests returning again and again.
We must continue to be the destination of choice by providing that guest experience with the common purpose that we create happiness when we work together to provide lasting British Virgin Islands memories.
Overall, we have a very dynamic and competitive industry, and we must do all that we can to ensure tourism’s viability in the Territory.
We must continue to maintain our service standards of safety, friendliness, authenticity and efficiency.
As a destination, I must say that we have a growing reputation and recognition in the international travel industry as evidenced by the recent, accolades that we have received.
For example, Virgin Gorda was named The Best Island in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas in Travel + Leisure’s annual “World’s Best Awards.” The BVI was named the #1 Best Place to Visit in the Caribbean by US News & World Report. Additionally, The British Virgin Islands ranked #18 on the list of Best Islands in the World as part of the 2016 Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Plus, two BVI properties, Guana Island and Bitter End Yacht Club, were named in the “Top Resorts in The Caribbean” list with a ranking of #10 and #43, respectively.
We should not remain satisfied with receiving these awards but they should motivate us to continually endeavor to keep the guest experience at the forefront of our brand, diversify our offerings, and work together as ‘one BVI’. This would ensure that the destination, our resorts and attractions continue to be ranked among the best in the world.
This season, we expect to see a record number of cruise visitors and we expect to see an increase in the overnight arrivals. Let us welcome them and ensure that their time spent with us is memorable.
The BVI Tourist Board which is charged with managing the tourism sector is hard at work to ensure that our product delivers as advertised and exceeds the expectation of our guests.
Under their leadership and work with strategic partners, there have been several product enhancement initiatives, including the opening and development of sites in Anegada such as the rehabilitation of Fisherman’s Wharf, the construction of a lookout tower for viewing flamingos at Salt Heap Point and the upgrading of the Faulkner House Museum and the S. Vanessa Faulkner Botanic Garden.
On Virgin Gorda, working with the Airports Authority, the Taddy Bay Airport is now air-conditioned and landscaping and beautification works are continuing. Also on Virgin Gorda work has commenced on restoring the Old Post Office in North Sound as a postal museum and numerous beach bohios are being repaired and installed.
On Jost Van Dyke the production of a birding panel for the Cape Wright Pond area is nearing completion.
On Tortola, significant assistance has been provided for the enhancement of the St. Phillip’s Anglican Church at Kingstown which should be open to the public in time for high season. Restoration and interpretation work on the Beef Island Toll Booth has commenced and the old Her Majesty’s Prison on Main Street will be opened this season as a new historical site and museum.
I invite the community to support the culinary events scheduled for the remainder of this month that are promoted by the BVI Tourist Board under the brand BVI Food Fete.
Let us each commit to doing our part in helping our guests have a magnificent experience visiting the Territory.
Remember we are One BVI and Tourism is all of our business!