TOURIST BOARD GEARS UP FOR CHALLENGING 2003
The BVI Tourist Board has put in place a number of mechanisms to meet the
challenges facing the industry in 2003, Director Mr. Kedrick Malone
announced during a press conference.
He noted that last year was also a very challenging one for tourism in the
BVI, the region and the world, but the BVI fared better than the rest due
to the commendable efforts of his staff and industry personnel.
“2003 is a challenging year,” Mr. Malone projected. “It’s a year that is
seeing a lot of travel demands.” He stated however, that while travel
patterns have changed, the Caribbean still continues to be a good
destination for travellers because of its proximity to the United States
and because the region is still deemed to be safe.
Some of the challenges he identified include airlift problems out of Europe
and the industry becoming extremely competitive in relationships, marketing
and product development.
“At the BVI Tourist Board, we feel that we have prepared ourselves to face
the challenges and despite world conditions, it is our objective to try to
help the industry return to its pre-9/11 level of business,” the Director
He announced several initiatives the Board plans to undertake, including
increasing the cooperative relationship between the Board, the industry and
its strategic partners. “For tourism to work in the BVI, we have to help
other people in the community realize that tourism is not just the Tourist
Board or those agencies directly involved, but also extends to the entire
He said the slogan for the Board this year is “Make it Happen”.
“For 2003, our focus is on the product,” Director Malone continued, He said
the product is one of the most critical elements of the industry, what the
consumer comes to the destination to enjoy.
He said the BVI has established a very strong reputation as a product based
mainly on its natural beauty. But he said with recent changes in the
industry, persons are looking for more diverse activities and the Board
will work to initiate a clean up campaign, launch a heritage tourism
programme, develop the tourism infrastructure to provide a maximum
experience for cruise visitors and establish and increase standards for
Mr. Malone also spoke of a “Welcome Back to the BVI Campaign”. He said the
BVI has a legacy of repeat visitors and a special invitation will be
extended to these persons to come back. This campaign will be done
cooperatively with local hotels, charter companies, properties and other
“On the marketing side, we are going now towards a more cooperative
marketing approach, working more with the industry here and our media
partners, tour operators and travel agents,” Mr. Malone said. He said they
have done a complete analysis of the market and now know where our visitors
come from, allowing for more targeted marketing programmes.
From a public relations standpoint, the emphasis will be on awareness,
especially with the local media, that will affect product development. More
visitor centres will also be opened during the first quarter of this year
at the airport, Craft Alive market and at West End.
“Again, this is part of our effort to ensure that while the visitor is here
on the island that they can go to any of those three places, in addition to
the BVI Tourist Board office and get information on what they need to do
while on the island,” the Director stated.
He added they have also restructured and will continue to host the
familiarization trips where they host journalists from around the world
giving them a feel for the BVI and the opportunity to communicate to the
public in their areas their experience in the BVI.
Meantime, Mr. Malone announced plans by the Board to launch a new website,
develop a strategic plan and institute a digital location library for the
BVI Film Commission this year. He said this would give the BVI a stronger
presence in the film industry.
Another plan announced include the restructuring of the BVI Tourist Board’s
website, where it will be used as more of a sales tool, facilitate easier
information retrieval online and feature islands of the BVI individually.
Looking at Virgin Gorda, the Tourist Board Director pointed out that that
island has the most inventory of the BVI product and a large number of
upscale properties. He said this year, they will be putting particular
focus on Virgin Gorda to ensure it retains its position as one of the
leading islands of the world.
“We realize that all that we’re doing requires training of staff…and human
resource is on the top of the agenda…the most important aspect of what the
Tourist Board is doing,” he declared. He said they couldn’t effectively
implement the programmes outlined without the proper skills and level of
development of the employees.
Another major area of focus is a lack of adequate air access, which hampers
a lot of the marketing efforts, Mr. Malone said. He said this was confirmed
during a recent meeting with American Airlines, who indicated that with
larger plans they could increase the number of arrivals coming into Beef
At the same time, he welcomed the addition of Caribbean Sun airlines to the
BVI, saying it’s good to have choices in air travel. He said the BVITB has
had a very good working relationship with sister airline Caribbean Star in
the past, as with LIAT, in its regional marketing programmes.
“We have established deeper relationships with American Airlines and we met
with US Airways…last week and established a framework for a working
relationship,” said Mr. Malone. “So, we think that the air access is
improving out of the US in particular, (but) European air access continues
to be a challenge.”
However, he said coming out of the airline forum held here last month and
attended by representatives from airlines such as BA and BWIA, a number of
cooperative programmes will be developed. He said additionally, they would
continue to develop the USVI gateway.
During last Friday’s press conference, the various Managers at the Tourist
Board were on hand to outline specific initiatives taking place within
Product Manager Mrs. Janis Braithwaite Edwards said her department’s areas
of focus, at least during the first quarter of 2003, are community tourism
and government agency partnerships. Some of the projects will include
management of the mural site at Great Mountain, joint Board/government
marketing at overseas conferences and the BVI You’re Beautiful
programme, starting in the East End area.
For Small Properties Administrator Ms. Monique Hodge, she will be focusing
on standards, property inspections and licensing, continuing the focus of
last year, which was on helping small properties to recover through a
Marketing Manager Ms. Lynette Harrigan said the overall marketing plan is
actually executed in conjunction with FCB, the Board’s press and
advertising office in New York. She said in the BVI, they would concentrate
more on the niche markets of diving, Puerto Rican visitors, the Caribbean
market, weddings and honeymoons, meetings incentives, the African-American
and the intra US and BVI markets and on strengthening partnerships with
Public Relations Manager Mr. Keith Dawson announced plans to also establish
radio and television programmes, an industry newsletter and an online
community bulletin board.
From the Virgin Gorda office, Manager Ms. Shereen Flax said the first
project to be rolled out by month end would be a Guide to Virgin Gorda, a
comprehensive brochure about the island. She also spoke of the ongoing
derelict vehicles removal project, an overall beautification project and
the move to a new office for the Virgin Gorda office.
And Deputy Director of Tourism Mr. Albert Wheatley spoke to the human
resources aspect of the Board. He said the strategic objectives fall under
three categories recruitment, human resource development and incentive
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