Friday, June 27, 2014 – 9:09am
Good afternoon ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, my Government and I have been working hard on behalf of the people of the Territory. I am therefore pleased to give you an update on recent events and initiatives.
Air access to the Territory is essential to the success of our tourism industry and our business sector. As I have said before, if we are going to grow our industries and the economy, we must connect the BVI to the rest of the world, and especially via direct air access.
My Government has worked continuously to ensure such access. As you know, we have worked to ensure adequate capacity (through Seabourne and Cape Air) facilitate direct access from the US mainland to Beef Island via San Juan. We have also ensured that there is direct access into Virgin Gorda from San Juan. We have also been working very hard to connect our European market to the Territory.
As such I am pleased to announce that we have made significant progress with the establishment of a commuter service between Antigua and the BVI. We expect that this service will start in time for the Winter season and will connect with major airlines out of Europe.
The key significant development here is that this commuter service is now on GDS, a global airline reservation system. This means that agents around the world and in our key markets are now able to book flights to and from the Territory.
This is great news for our tourism industry, as it will make it much easier for our visitors coming from and through London, to get here.
You may be aware that I recently attended tourism investment promotion conferences in New York, following on the one I attended previously in Miami. This was to engage in networking opportunities with leading institutions in the tourism industry. At that conference we met with hoteliers, financiers and investors who may be interested in development opportunities in the BVI. We also did a presentation showcasing the BVI and its potential investment opportunities.
There was great interest, particularly in the Beef Island development and in Prospect Reef resort.
We have since been following up with several of those attending, and will be receiving visits soon to further explore these projects.
In my continued efforts to strengthen international relations and solidify BVI global positioning, I led a delegation to the UK and other European states last week to promote the BVI as a global financial services jurisdiction and to participate in the Eighth UK/Caribbean Forum, hosted in London. I was joined by Financial Secretary Neil Smith and the Director of BVI London House, Kedrick Malone.
The focus of the Eighth UK/Caribbean Forum was building stronger partnerships for prosperity: specifically, to develop secure and sustainable energy solutions; to support the development of education and skills for economic development and job creation; and to reduce the impact of serious and organised crime on our shared prosperity goals. First held in Nassau in 1998, the UK-Caribbean Forum has been the principle platform for high-level dialogue between the UK and the Caribbean on important bi-national, regional and international issues.
In addition to attending the Forum in the UK, I met with Mr Simmons, the Minister for overseas Territories and reviewed with him our progress on our Capital development projects. He was particularly keen to hear about the Cruise Pier Project and the Airport expansion project, as he also sees these initiatives as important infrastructural projects in building our tourism industry and our economy.
The British Virgin Islands remains committed to sharing information with our global partners. As such my visit to the UK also included the signing of a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the Government of Japan.
The BVI’s 26th such agreement, the TIEA will enable the two tax countries to better exchange information for tax purposes in accordance with internationally agreed standards as outlined by the OECD.
In furtherance of my Chairmanship of the European Union Overseas Countries and Territories Association, I also visited the Minister of the Overseas Territories of the Netherlands to discuss this year’s agenda, which entails building the relationship between the European Union and its Overseas Territories.
One of the action items that I discussed was the formation of an All Party Parliamentary support group within the EU for the Overseas Territories. This group will represent the issues of the Overseas Territories in that parliament. This will allow the voice and interests of the BVI and other Overseas Territories to be heard within the EU.
Finally, I had a good meeting with Senior government officials from the Ministry of Finance in France. They were impressed with the progress we have made in fulfilling our obligations to France under the Tax Information Agreement. As you know we created the International Tax Authority in 2012 and have further strengthened its capacity.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, this brings me to the end of today’s update and I look forward to your questions.