Various fees, stipulations, and regulations that were implemented over the recent years are beginning to affect the day sail sector within the Territory’s tourism industry and a plan to reverse the problem is urgently being examined.
The situation of how extra cost and stipulations are making the Territorial waters unattractive to day sailors from the US Virgin Islands was raised in the House of Assembly during the questions and answers segment on 25 February.
In his question to the Premier on the issue Hon. Turnbull stated that the charter boat tourism operators believe that their business is being affected. “There continues to be an outcry that is now being evidenced by the reduction in day trippers and guest coming to our shores to spend time in Jost Van Dyke and other areas,” Hon. Turnbull announced.
In his response Hon. Fahie said that he looked at the day-tripping figures, discussed with business persons and felt it is imperative that the matter is sorted speedily. “Mr. Speaker the data received from the Central Statistics Office regarding day trippers expenditure for 2019 show that expenditure had returned to the 2016 pre-Irma and Maria levels. In addition, members would recall that your government had a business forum with the BVI Chamber of Commerce Hotel Association on 26 November 2019 where these matters regarding day trippers were fully ventilated.”
Hon. Fahie noted that following the discussion on the matter a plan/solution is being crafted. “Mr. Speaker a strategy is being developed in conjunction with the BVI Chamber of Commerce Hotel Association to review and amend the different legislation regulations…to safeguard and strengthen this sector of our tourism product.”
Prior to being raised in the House of Assembly the BVI Leader said that the discussion was reviewed extensively when the two Virgin Islands met earlier this month. “This matter was totally ventilated not only with the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association but when we had the Inter-Virgin Islands Council with the United States Virgin Islands this was a major issue …”
In noting how things became so cogent the Premier said that this situation shows that the Territory priced itself out of the market. “We now recognize that we over legislate, over regulate and also overpriced ourselves out of certain niche areas that we were dominant in.” The Premier therefore explained that rectifying the situation will require amendments to the Customs and Regulations Act.
“We are on the road to have those addressed and…we’ll be coming to the Honourable House to get those amendments so that we be a main player back in the ball game,” Hon. Fahie added.
Looking further at solutions to the problem the Premier said that in Government’s consultation with the BVICCHA they were given a long list of recommendations. Hon. Fahie said that various stakeholders were already part of the conversation. “Immigration was there, Customs was there, the Minister was there, we all were there,” the Premier noted.
As a result of the meetings Hon. Fahie said that government is preparing to take actions on the matter. “All the different solutions now we are preparing to go towards the amendment of the legislation and the regulations
“I would say that in a month – the most a month and a half – …we want to do with the mega yachts to get more boating around and staying here. Mark my word in less than two months you’re going to be seeing the legislation in here,” Hon. Fahie assured.