By Mellica McPherson-Ganda
Boosting the Territory’s tourism sector is a major focus of Premier, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith who has his eyes on the competition and vowed that this year would see the implementation of some of the support mechanisms government has put in place.
The Premier, who firmly spoke on the subject in the House of Assembly during the Budget Debate, noted that he has been observing the trends and how the Territory is faring in this pillar of BVI economy: “We know that we have to do plenty about tourism, we know what the challenge is — our competitors are all the many territories both in the Caribbean and in the rest of the world,” he told his colleagues.
In noting that the fear of Cuba being a major rival is real: “One of my colleagues, the Deputy Premier always speaks about when Cuba opens what will happen. So Cuba has opened Madame Speaker and … we heard or I saw it on television that the President of America and his family has made a trip to Cuba; and I hear from what the talking heads were saying on television that this will encourage Americans to go to Cuba — see what they have as a destination for tourism and also for investment.”
“Therefore in view of that it is important that we up our game in tourism,” the Premier declared as he stated that Government has been taking steps to strengthen the industry.
“We started a new campaign just a few months ago, a new promotion campaign which was set up for by one of our consultants and that is going well. We discussed with Disney last year (about) some tourism projects that is some areas within Road Town and its environs and other places on Tortola that need to be improved so that the visitors’ experience can be enhanced (and) that will be part of the budget,” Hon. Smith disclosed as he illustrated how Government was boosting the sector.
The Premier said that Government is planning to improve the visitors’ experience by providing tourists with other places to visit besides Cane Garden Bay. He said that Government is moving ahead with the Brandywine Bay project “I expect to see that go on full speed ahead towards completion this year,” Dr. Smith said.
The announced direct flight between Miami and the BVI is also a necessary tourism incentive: “I know that it will hopefully start in October and I know that many people are eagerly looking forward to that flight. We have spoken to many businesses in the Territory and they are interested and they will contribute by having their passengers use that flight,” Hon. Smith said.
“Then of course there is the airport development which we have to continue to look at and expect to see more progress in the short term,” he added.
The BVI Leader also mentioned that there has been increased attention to investing in the BVI, and that at least five groups of people have expressed interest in the development of Prospect Reef.
Hon. Smith further mentioned that the appointed of Junior Minister of Tourism, Hon. Archibald Christian is part of the Government’s commitment to improving tourism. “We recognize that Tourism is one of the areas that we need to focus on so it was important that we brought somebody else on board to work on that area. Hon. Christian will be working along with me and the rest of the team to push forward on developing the tourism sector,” he said.