By Mellica McPherson-Ganda
It is a well-known saying that when one door closes another opens and as the Territory’s tourism industry took a hit and appeared closed for the last few weeks, industry stakeholders are convinced that the hurricanes can open a new door of “sites” marketing. In this case it was suggested that special disaster /climate change tours can be promoted.
The suggestion was made by owner of BVI 360 Tours Julio “Sam” Henry; and President of Business of the BVICCHA, the Taxi and Livery Commission, and the Managing Director of JTV Troy Christopher. Both men are of the view that the BVI should make lemonade with the lemons Irma and Maria brought.
In an interview on Tuesday Mr. Christopher explained that these special disaster tours would be appealing to not only individuals, but organizations like National Geographic who he said already enquired. “From my personal experience there have been a number of persons who are interested in seeing what a category five hurricane does. From my professional capacity at JTV in particular we have had a number of requests from persons like National Geographic and other documentary companies.”
Further Mr. Christopher said that instead of looking at the glass half empty the community should see the potential and look at the glass half full: “It is fascinating, you have something special that the Atlantic has not seen before and so you can take the approach that you want to hide it, or that you don’t want anyone to see it.”
On the other Mr. Christopher explained that these disaster/climate change tours would not appeal to everyone: “There are some visitors who want what they wanted before. Also it’s a new opportunity. The same way you would have had a hiking tour or nature trail tour, or people who are interested in basically seeing what it is like after a category five hurricane.”
He further mentioned that in many places around the world tours do not just consist of beaches. He noted that some of the BVI’ tourist sites were from disasters. One example he said is the Wreck of the Rhone. He also mentioned the Copper Mine, and the Dungeon which are ruins that attract visitors.
“We live in the Caribbean and hurricanes are a part of life. To me there’s an opportunity there to show how we survived it, how we recovered; how resilient the people are,” he further pointed out.
While the tours were suggested as tourism treat for the market of curious visitors, the BVI CCHA President stressed that safety remains the major concern in a post hurricane BVI where clean up and restoration is still taking place. “The biggest issue is that you will want to ensure that you can provide safety for guests. There is some level of balance you want to have in terms of visitors wellbeing.”
“Safety is first yes, and you want to make sure that you present your best foot forward but it is an opportunity to tell the story of how we survived hurricane Irma what damage we went through. It provides a lot of opportunities. If your beach is not opened…why not sell your history or stories,” he said.
It was also noted that frequent visitors to the Territory may particularly be interested in the stories. “Persons who visited the Territory before, while it was up and running — if they come back and look at it now they might donate.” Mr. Christopher further noted that tourist bars especially might benefit from sharing what the hurricane did to them. “I don’t think it’s anything to be embarrassed about. We didn’t make the hurricane,” he added.
On the other hand Tour Operator Sam Henry announced that there is already interest in the proposed climate change tour: “I have people who are interested in doing recovery tours,” he announced during an interview with The Island Sun.
Henry also said that his company BVI 360 tours was asked to put together tour concept ideas looking at best routes, and best locations. “Some of the beaches are accessible right now, Brewers Bay is awesome, it needs a little more cleaning but you can still accommodate people there, Beef Island Beach, Long Bay Beach you can accommodate people there. The tour itself is just a curiosity type tour…we had a disaster in the country but the country is not down and out…the country is still surviving, we are moving forward — we cleaning, we clearing areas we are doing things to accommodate people. We have sailors coming in they don’t need to be on land,” he added.