The Tortola Pier Park has been renamed the Cyril B Romney Tortola Pier Park in honor of the pioneering former Chief Minister who was instrumental in the development of both the BVI’s cruise tourism sector and offshore financial sector.
During a well attended ceremony on 15 February Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark Vanterpool said that the renaming is the delivery of a promise that has been made to the Lillian Romney, the late wife of Mr. Romney and his children.
“I promised it and I delivered it and I am grateful that we are here today…Only regret is that Ms. Lily (Romney) is not here today – a very special lady; and many of you don’t know – she was a backbone behind CB’s decision and what he did. She was very outspoken and very involved in what he did…Her name bears right next to his name,” Hon. Vanterpool said.
He also used the splendid occasion to dispel rumors that the renaming was politically motivated. In fact, Hon. Vanterpool stressed that there is nothing political about the endeavor: “This is not a political effort, this has no political meaning for me. This has a very personal meaning for me in terms of a man who above everything else is well deserving of this honor Mr. Cyril B. Romney. This unfortunately is happening in the middle of a political campaign,” the Minister said.
The Communications and Works Minister emphasized that the Territory’s current position as a cruise ship destination is credited greatly to Mr. Romney who worked hard to get cruise ships to the Territory: “He has caused us to reach that position where everything you see here with cruise tourism today and the development that we’ve seen,” Hon. Vanterpool added.
Patricia Romney spoke on behalf of the family of the late C.B. Romney and said that the renaming was a day of great historic value not only for her family but for the entire Territory. “It is a day a long time in the making, well before the first shovel was turned to build this beautiful facility.” She said the honor is a needed show of respect for a deserving native son,” she said.
Ms. Romney described her father as “a hero of the BVI, a man who served this country selflessly.” She said: “Both in his public and private life our father gave tirelessly to ensure that every BV Islander could have an opportunity to work for an honest living and to encourage our people to own and operate their business within either of our two economic pillars – financial services and tourism – both of which he was essential in establishing in this country.”
Ms. Romney said that her father entered the cruise business in the 1970s after being introduced to key industry players in St Thomas by his cousin. It was stated that Hon. Romney started by offering tours from St Thomas to Tortola and he eventually convinced the cruise lines to come to Tortola directly and in the process he established Travel Plan tours together with his wife for this purpose.”
She recalled when Windjammer cruises began making calls to the BVI in the early 70s followed by Cunard cruises, and pointed out that much has changed in the industry since then. “In those days a 700 passenger ship was massive. Today we welcome megaships with some 5000 passengers onboard. As a ten-year-old I remember going onboard with my father to help clear the ships…Our father knew that his girls were the deal clinchers so he would always make it his business to take one of us on his numerous overseas trips to conferences in Miami, the UK and Europe to visit cruise line executives in their home towns to promote the BVI.”
Ms. Romney said that her father developed personal relationships with many executives in the industry who admired his zest for the industry and love of country. “Though the BVI wasn’t ready for a big number tourism in those early days Cyril Romney kept the industry with information about his beautiful country and the benefits they would achieve if only they would take a chance on little BVI,” she pointed out.
“12 years since his passing many of those same cruise executives relay to us the times they have spent with this ardent relentless and convincing ambassador of the Virgin Islands. As a family we continue investing in our father’s legacy by providing buses, boats, personnel, activities and locations for our guests throughout the islands. Thereby fulfilling his vision of becoming a top tier tourist destination whilst at the same time minimizing the perception of negative impact of mass tourism in these islands,” she added.
The daughter of Mr. Romney echoed Hon. Vanterpool’s sorrow that her mother could not witness the renaming. “It was three years ago I was here assisting to get ready for the official opening from inside the store I heard a promise from a very familiar voice from this same podium …the words were in a nutshell that CB must be recognized for his role in BVI cruise tourism and it would happen under his watch. Minister Vanterpool I think we share one regret that your longtime friend our mom didn’t get to see this day, but rest assured she appreciates your effort and the government,” she said.