‘BREXIT, PRE-JMC AND TOURISM DEVELOPMENT’
PREMIER DR. HON. D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
Ladies and Gentleman of the Press, good afternoon.
Today I would like to engage with you on some of the pertinent international issues of the day and then turn to my Government’s efforts in tourism development.
Let me first extend my condolences to the people of France, particularly those who lost loved ones in the recent attacks in Nice on Bastille Day. Here in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) we are saddened by this tragedy and the loss of human life.
In the United Kingdom, as you are aware, there has been a change in political leadership nationally.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate The Right Honourable Theresa May on her appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), as well as the appointment of her new Foreign Secretary The Right Honourable Boris Johnson.
I wish Prime Minister May and Foreign Secretary Johnson every success in office and look forward to a fruitful relationship with the new Administration.
Importantly, the relationship between the Overseas Territories and the UK is now more important than ever as Britain prepares to exit the European Union (EU) which it has been a part of for the last 43 years.
As I have said in a previous statement, the BVI can be a strategic asset to the UK in channeling investment into the British economy to support the nation in its efforts toward greater economic independence in the lead up to and after Brexit.
Thus I am looking forward to raising with a new UK Overseas Territories Minister the prospect of a new BVI-UK economic partnership.
Tomorrow, I will travel to the Turks and Caicos Islands to join other OT Leaders at the Pre-Joint Ministerial Council hosted by my colleague Premier Dr. Hon Rufus Ewing.
There we will discuss OT priorities for ministerial discussions with the United Kingdom later this year. Of course, Brexit is high on the agenda, and we are specifically concerned about how we will be involved in UK negotiations with the EU.
The BVI and others benefit from the EU, and the value of this relationship should be taken into consideration in any new arrangement between the EU and the UK.
Also on the agenda is financial services.
We will discuss ways in which territories can address the offshore stigma by reinforcing to the global community that small international financial centres (IFCs) such as BVI regulatory regime meets highest international standards and play an important role in the global economy.
In the margins of the Pre-JMC, the OT Leaders of the Associate Members of CARICOM, including BVI, will have a special meeting with CARICOM Secretary General Dr. Irwin Larocque to discuss our priorities and the overall CARICOM agenda, including a proposed Caribbean international conference on correspondent banking, and more general the OTs ongoing relationship and engagement with CARICOM.
I will now turn to tourism, a sector where we continue to make significant strides.
Earlier this year, I announced that direct flights from the Virgin Islands to Miami and back, will soon be available through the services of BVI Airways.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that we are on track, progressing well and barring any unanticipated hiccups, I expect to see schedule flights—direct flights to and from the United States mainland, between the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport and the Miami International Airport before Thanksgiving of this year.
Direct flights as ‘A Game Changer’ mean that we would no longer be limited by our ability to participate in the global marketplace.
Furthermore, direct flights means ease of passenger travels to a major international hub, where direct flights from major metropolitan centres around the world can connect to flights directly to and from the British Virgin Islands
As I continue to discuss air access, I am pleased to inform you that on Friday, July 15 Delta Airlines and Seaborne announced that they will begin selling their brand on Seaborne at San Juan to and from the British Virgin Islands effective September 7.
This mark the first time in the aviation history of the Caribbean that one airline will operate with the three major brands doing business in the Caribbean.
Seaborne will now have code-share agreements with American, Delta, and JetBlue - - providing ease of access to the BVI through a powerful distribution and reservations network as well as ticketing and baggage.
The British Virgin Islands is an important part of the Seaborne network and important to their partner airlines.
This will be coupled with new nonstop service by BVI Airways which is set to launch in the fall increases BVI's visibility in the tourism scape and helps with our accessibility challenges.
This is indeed welcomed news as we head into season 2016/2017.
On July 6, 2016, the Territory received a well-deserving allocate from Travel and Leisure World’s Best Awards. Virgin Gorda was selected as top island in the Caribbean.
Each year for the past 21 years travelers have turned to the Travel + Leisure audience to help them define excellence in travel. Travelers are asked to rate their recent experiences at hotels, on airlines and cruise ships, in cities and islands, and much more—all over the world.
For the last three years, Virgin Gorda has consistently achieved a ‘Top 5’ ranking. This is a stellar accolade for the crown jewel of BVI tourism.
With the commitment that my Government has made to infrastructure development of our attractions, historical sites and beaches coupled with the investment from the private sector, and commitment from the Virgin Gorda community, I must say that our tourism future is on the rise.
We are getting ready on the tourism front and improving our offerings. We have made a commitment to have new enhancements ready for the upcoming season.
For example, we will continue to assist with the restoration of the St. Phillips Church, and with improving facilities at Smuggler's, Long Bay, Brewers Bay and Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. We will also be highlighting our history and culture in myriad ways through products such as the Queen Elizabeth Bridge historic toll booth, the Copper Mine Visitor Centre, the old post office in North Sound, among others.
Lastly I would like to speak about the comprehensive training programme we have undertaken in partnership with the Disney Institute to provide a designed to ensure that guests to our Territory receive a superlative guest experience.
We are a year into this programme and I am pleased to announce that over 700 hospitality professionals have attended the ‘BVI Guest experience’ workshops.
Additionally, over 40 BVI professionals have received their 'Master Trainer' certification to ensure territory-wide training. These trained professionals will now assist the BVI Tourist Board with facilitating additional workshops.
The overall objective is to have as many of our residents understand the importance of tourism and the guest experience. We are now seeking ways to take the programme into all public and private schools.
Last week, a delegation from the Disney Institute visited the Territory to meet with different industry stakeholders and various members of Government to discuss ways of further strengthening our tourism offering. We’ve all concluded that the ‘BVI Guest experience’ would form an integral part of our ONE BVI, BVI FORWARD, and ONE GOVERNMENT initiatives.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have highlighted a number of successes in tourism and financial services, two important sectors of this economy. My Government will continue to do all we can to improve both sectors, and we will work with the public in adding-value to all sectors of the economy.
I do thank you for listen and I now invite your questions.