STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
DURING THE FIFTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday, 20th February, 2020
Moving Tourism Forward
Mister Speaker, I will now focus on give an update on the state of our tourism industry.
Our tourism industry continues to surge as evidenced by official reports from the Government’s Central Statistics Office which note increases of arrivals year over year since the hurricanes of 2017.
According to those reports, we are once again approaching the levels of 2016 where we saw record numbers of over 1.1 million visitors [one million, one hundred and twenty-four thousand, three hundred and eighty (1,124,380) to be exact].
In 2019 we had eight hundred and ninety-four thousand, nine hundred and ninety-one (894,991) visitor arrivals. This represents 79% of our 2016 total arrival numbers.
We are now sitting at 1606 land-based rooms which represent 59% of our pre-storm inventory. On the marine side, we have about 4400 berths on boats, which exceed our pre-storm capacity.
With the reopening of the flagship property Rosewood Little Dix Bay in January, the anticipated reopening of Peter Island Resort and Mosquito Island, together with Bitter End Yacht Club returning to its sailing roots when it reopens its first phase of redevelopment this summer, there is much to be excited and optimistic about.
Mister Speaker, as we forge forward with the BVI’s digital economy, we are ensuring that tourism remains relevant and does not lag behind in this area.
The BVI Tourist Board will shortly select a firm to develop a new and enhanced Web site for launching by the fourth quarter of this year. The Board is also in the process of selecting a firm to provide digital internet services for visitors throughout the Territory.
But perhaps the most recent and exciting news is that of the launching of the BVI Now app. This app described by some as the “Yellow Pages on Steroids” is designed to quickly connect our guests with the myriad of tourism businesses. The app utilises the latest technologies enabling guests to access local businesses and maps, and it is able to do this without internet connection. News of the app’s launch is quickly garnering international attention in the travel trade and consumer media.
In advancing its mandate, the Tourist Board is desirous of providing mobile and hotspot Wi-Fi services as a key marketing tool that will enhance the tourism experience for cruise visitors, day-tours and stay-over visitors in the BVI.
The Tourist Board is therefore soliciting proposals from qualified consulting firms to develop a Wireless Network Strategic Plan (Plan) with a near-term focus on Wi-Fi deployment in key tourist sites and hire-vehicles and a long-term consideration of other wireless technologies (Wireless Network).
The preferred Consultant must demonstrate prior experience working with government agencies or statutory bodies in developing plans to build wireless broadband networks.
The Plan would be used to strategically develop the Tourist Board’s wireless telecommunication infrastructure to meet the needs of its target audience. The successful Responder would utilise the Plan and work on the Tourist Board’s behalf to construct, manage, and leverage certain Tourist Board assets and telecommunication infrastructure with third parties.
Mister Speaker, the British Virgin Islands have once again received validation by international travellers and the media that we are still a top of mind travel destination.
The accolades signifying this vote of confidence include:
- BVI was named the No. 2 place to visit in the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2020”.
- Two BVI bars, Soggy Dollar Bar and Hendo’s Hideout were voted number 1 and number 4 respectively for USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Caribbean Beach Bar.
- The British Virgin Islands won the Hospitality, Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Platinum Adrian Award for its digital marketing campaign, Today’s Secrets.
- We also won the Gold Adrian Award for public relations for the Travel + Leisure Magazine Cover Story, “The British Virgin Islands’ Impressive Comeback”
The recent signing of an agreement with international luxury travel consortium ‘Traveller Made’ is an added validation of the Territory’s re-emergence on the luxury travel scene.
Traveller Made like BVI’s other strategic travel consortia partnerships such as Virtuoso and Signature, is a network of luxury travel agents dedicated to providing unique and exclusive bespoke journeys to travellers looking for different and original experiences.
The Film industry has demonstrated renewed confidence in the BVI as a location with several projects shot on location here including the acclaimed PBS Television Travel Show, “Samantha Brown Places to Love”, to name a few of the projects that was showcased on many of the sites in the Territory.
The idea is to always promote the BVI activities that are available for enjoyment in the Territory and promote the BVI as both an exhilarating tourism destination and a very versatile and attractive location for filming.
Mister Speaker, while the Tourist Board and its tourism industry partners have led the resurgence of the BVI on the international travel scene, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must continue to find ways to enhance our tourism products and services.
While my Government’s plans to train persons for the hospitality industry continues through initiatives such as the ‘Back to the Sea’ programme to train persons for the marine sector, the Tourist Board continues to offer free customer service training for all visitor-facing personnel along with service standards training in collaboration with the Disney Institute. As well Mister Speaker, in terms of culinary and other service and quality training, the Government of the Virgin Islands will be working with the HLSCC to improve the facilities that they have on the current campus at Paraquita Bay and also seek to get another campus for such training on Virgin Gorda.
As a Government, we continue a relentless pursuit of improving accessibility utilising a variety of regional hubs including Puerto Rico, USVI, St. Maarten and Antigua and most recently Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
Our Government is constantly enhancing the tourism product with improvements at the ports of entry and projects carried out by the BVI Tourist Board including the installation of lookouts and branded hammocks at strategic points throughout the Territory, among others.
Mister Speaker, lastly, one product-related initiative launched by the BVI Tourist Board following the 2017 storms called Seeds of Love has not only helped to replant trees throughout the Territory but has created a tremendous outpouring of generosity and goodwill among our guests and the community. The involvement of our guests in this replanting effort is the essence of voluntourism.
Mister Speaker, the aforementioned and other developments fuel my enthusiastic optimism for the sustainable future of the tourism industry not only in the long term but right now. And Mister Speaker, I must thank our Director, Mister Speaker, Mrs. Sharon Flax-Brutus for the hard work she has done, I must thank Mister. Speaker, her team at the Tourist Board and Mister Speaker the Board of the Tourist Board, Mister Speaker. I must thank Mrs. Sprauve and I must thank my Junior Ministers, Mister Speaker, Honourable Shereen Flax- Charles and Honourable Sharie de Castro, Mister Speaker, because without them working hand in glove, Mister Speaker our tourism product could not be where it is.
Thank you Mister Speaker.