REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE, DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE AT THE OFFICIAL CELEBRATION
FOR THE OPENING OF THE EXPANDED CRUISE PIER
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2015
BVI: A MAGNET FOR MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES
Your Excellency the Governor
Ministers of Government
Members of the House of Assembly
Permanent Secretaries and Public officers
Public Authorities including the Board of Directors and team from the BVI Ports Authority
Youth of this Territory
Members of the media
Members of the public, especially the hardworking men and women in the hospitality and tourism industry, and to those listening via the radio
This morning around 6:30 a.m. visibility was not particularly good, but as I made out the Norwegian Getaway making her way to Road Harbour, in front of Salt Island and Cooper, my heart skipped a beat.
She seemed to just sit there for a few moments. And then as she inched her way into Road Harbour nearly half an hour later the sun shone and I said to my wife Lorna who stood on the verandah with me, 'look at progress!!!!!"
Ladies and gentlemen on May 8 of last year - less than a year ago - we broke ground to prepare for this day celebrating the completion and opening of the cruise pier expansion. And praise God we have not only completed the dock but one of the leading cruise lines is tied up next to it!
When we broke ground, I reaffirmed that my Government fully understood that tourism is one of two economic engines of the Virgin Islands. I said that the sector touched the daily life of every man, woman and child in the Territory.
I also reminded you that realistically most popular cruise ships today could no longer be accommodated at our port facilities. I said that unless we extended and expanded the pier we would see shrinkage in our cruise arrivals.
And so we had to move forward post haste with providing berthing and related facilities that could accommodate today’s ships.
And here we are today!
Today is more than just a celebration!
Today is more than just another project completed!
Today is more than just a promise that taxi drivers will have more passengers and tours.
Today is more than just a promise that restaurants will have more diners. Vendors greater sales, and historical sites and attractions more visitors.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls today is about security— your Security!
The kind of security that comes with a guarantee that the Virgin Islands will have ships, not occasionally, but regularly—all year round. We thank Norwegian and Disney cruise lines for making that commitment and in believing in the strength of the BVI brand.
This morning we exchanged mementoes for the inaugural call and I took the opportunity to specially welcome the Captain and Crew of the Getaway. I also thanked Mr Conelly representing Disney, for his support of this territory
This level of confidence and security says to our people that weathering a storm takes action, not lip service. We can now welcome and accommodate the new wave of mega ships that largely represent the Cruise Tourism industry.
This kind of security brings with it more jobs, learning and training opportunities to prepare our people for the many prospects in cruise tourism.
This is the kind of security that we have been asking all of you in the hospitality and tourism industries to get ready for; because the Virgin Islands story is no longer just about sun, sea and sand.
In fact, everybody is boasting about the natural beauty of their destinations; and our Virgin Islands must stand out like a gem, unique from all the rest.
Whether it is Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegaga, Jost Van Dyke, or any of our unique islands, the expansion of this cruise pier means security for all; and the new story to tell is that the BVI is a magnet for memorable experiences.
My people, the new story of the Virgin Islands is about selling a service—a niche—to intentionally turn day-trippers into overnight arrivals.
Our story is about developing new attractions to enhance the tourist experience; and reassessing services to diversity our products and offerings.
Our story is about positioning this gem of the Caribbean to be an even greater leader in tourism.
This is our shared vision!
As small as we are, we are standing tall among giants in financial services and we can do the same in tourism, in health, in education, in sports, in music, in arts, and I can go on.
We are a talented and innovative people; all it takes is all of us pulling together
It takes both you and me; Government and you—the people; the public and private sector pooling our resources and remaining patriotic to the BVI brand, investing in our own product.
This project is a testimony that we can also be our own investors. We have the capability and capacity to strengthen our own economy. We are shareholders in our destiny and our future. We must prepare the future, by securing our future.
There has been a lot of noise, some that has created mistrust in you. But, I stand strong as your leader, your Premier, to say to you today that united we stand, divided we fall!
Let me also reassure you that this is not a race about being swift without thinking, but rather, it is a race that requires strategic planning before action. This race is about the extra mile, the marathon: the race of endurance.
That is what the work of my government is about.
It is about us taking ownership and thinking outside the box to make the visitor experience tangible, different and memorable. We have to make our town beautiful and we are well on the way: the Queen Elizabeth Park will be ready for enjoyment and relaxation by year’s end. The Old Government House Museum on the opposite side continues to be a place of interest and of course Crafts Alive continues to attract many visitors.
The old Her Majesty's Prison Museum, less than five minutes away on foot is largely completed so that there is even more that our visitors can do in and around Road Town. That combined with the Sugar Works Museum, which is but a stone’s throw away, will make for yet another interesting tour for visitors and residents alike.
And we are in discussions with a local horticulture group to improve the overall aesthetics of our town and surrounding areas.
This cruise pier project is about us holding each other’s hands and creating new business ventures, new opportunities, new experiences, new local goods and services to meet the needs of our new clientele.
In 2007 we saw a peak in the numbers of cruise visitors at over 550. The peak figure of that year was a direct result of the hard work that my administration put into cruise tourism in 2007 and the years prior.
What you see here today is our continued commitment to growth.
We are pulling out all the stops to get our figures significantly beyond what we achieved in 2007.
Today, with the completion of this expansion we expect more than 425,000 passengers to our shores. This is a guaranteed commitment, an agreement that marks security for our industry for the first time in the history of this Territory. And this figure does not include the other lines that love our shores.
There is much more to be done, as we still have Tortola Pier Park to complete, but what is important is that we have started on the road to progress.
The kind of progress which needs the support of all of us, believing in one vision to build a better Virgin Islands—not just for us today, but for the Virgin Islanders of tomorrow, those children who will take this solid legacy and build on it.
That is what this historic day is about—securing the future of this Territory.
It is about my Government’s and our commitment to steering this Virgin Islands ship towards prosperity and a secured future for all.
I extend congratulations to the Minister for Communications and Works Honourable Mark Vanterpool and his team for ensuring that my mandate to him is carried out in the best interest of the people.
I continue to be pleased that road works happening throughout the BVI. We need it as Government must ensure the safety of its people.
I continue to hear the constant word “finally” from the people about the water and sewerage phase development project.
The completion of hospital is timely. The start of the medical centre on Virgin Gorda is necessary. The taxi stand and visitors centre on Jost Van Dyke was needed. The ongoing road works on Anegada was essential.
I am pleased that we are now moving to increase our electricity generating capacity to meet the growing demand of this Territory. What I am saying is that as our visitor numbers grow, so must our capacity to manage the local demands and influx of visitors.
I know that Minister for the Natural Resources and Labour and Deputy Premier is doing his part to ensure that we extend the runway at the TB Lettsome International Airport to welcome the overnight tourists including those who would been converted by the captivating experiences while visiting here aboard our ships. Who knows with an extended runway, down the road the BVI could become an embarkation Port! So I look forward to that new beginning with great anticipation.
I also extend thank you to Board of Directors chaired by Mr. Ed de Castro and your team at the BVI Port Authority led by Mr. Claude Skelton-Cline and his staff for assisting us in getting to this point. We still have more do.
I commend the contractor IDL Meridian Construction Mr. Percy Rhoden and Project Manager Mr. Dion Stoutt of STO Enterprises and your teams for delivering this fine piece of work. We are looking forward to the completion of the landside and related works.
I also wish to thank the Placement Agent from PMI Pensions Mr. Clarence Faulkner for providing our people with sound advice on how they could invest in their own future.
and to thank the Ministry of Finance, the staff at my Office and the BVI Tourist Board for collaborating to ensure that the BVI can deliver an extraordinary, remarkable and unforgettable tangible service.
I encourage all of you to continue to work together to help build the tourism numbers.
Let's join hands to continue to stimulate all the related sectors of this economy such as construction, agriculture and fishing, marine, trade, retail, and transportation. That is what I meant earlier when I said that tourism affects each and every one of us in this Territory!
Under my premiership, with a bold mind-set with energetic, forward thinking ministers and representatives of the people, this Territory will continue to thrive. It will continue to blossom and grow because we are injecting into the economy.
If we do not prepare ourselves for tomorrow, it will come and go and we would be left behind. That is not the modus operandi of my Government, the Government that offers you security, diversity and delivers on its promises.
My Government remains committed to you. Along this journey, we have learned key lessons. We listened during our candid discussions with industry partners and we have integrated your ideas. Now look at the results.
In a few days I will make a major speech about where we are progressing and moving towards. I will recount from whence we came and give you the picture for tomorrow. I invite you to listen out for the date and time.
Residents and citizens of the BVI, I am pleased with where we are today, aren’t you?
So, let us all move forward in partnership, energised, motivated and inspired to continue building a better Virgin Islands for us all.