Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn bemoaned the fact that the 2017 hurricanes crippled our tourism sector and Caribbean competitors are capitalizing on the fact that the BVI is not functioning at peak. The Minister also noted that some of the cruise ships are refusing to return until the Territory is spic and span and this urges the BVI to move swiftly with a solid recovery.
Speaking in the House of Assembly Hon. Walwyn mentioned that the Territory needs to move quickly forward with the recovery to retain its tourism share: “The cruise ships are saying to us we do not feel good bringing our tourists to the Virgin Islands because the place is in a state of disrepair that is what they are saying to us.” “They are also saying to us without saying it to us: we believe that we are inviting litigation by putting our passengers at risk to be here on the ground in the Virgin Islands because your roads are in disrepair many of your vehicles were damaged we are not sure what the conditions of them might be and we are concerned that the visitor experience would be bad for our tourists and will reflect badly on our cruise line,” he added.
The position taken by the ships and the mobilization of the competitors are reasons Hon. Walwyn said that the government cannot be relaxed in its efforts to recover. “These are some of the issues and so many of our competitors now are eating our lunch and they are enjoying it and they are belching while we are here with our mouth wide open. As we used to say long time ago in school when they eat we swallow that is where we are right now with the cruise tourism business in the Territory,” he said.
In his budget presentation on 19 March Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith disclosed that the BVI tourism product suffered a serious setback in 2017 as a result of the unprecedented trio of events: “The BVI was poised to continue its record breaking pace of increased tourism arrivals in 2017. In 2016, the BVI exceeded the 1 million visitors mark for the first time in its history recording increased arrivals across all sectors – cruise, overnight as well as day-trippers and recording visitor expenditure in excess of 482million USD. This is no small feat for a Territory the size of the BVI. It is a testament to the ability of our people to punch above our weight,” he noted.
Hon. Smith further explained that the historic and unprecedented disasters of 2017 threw the industry into chaos and diminished the revenue potential as well as the product. “Overall visitor numbers recorded at the end of 2017 showed total arrivals of 756,151, a decrease of 387,922, representing a 33% decline. Cruise visitors decreased by 289,382 passengers, representing a 41% decline from 2016. Daytrip visitors declined by 5,713 or 33% and overnight visitors declined by 73,134 or 18%, taking us back to 2013 levels.”
“Our charter and bareboat industry pre-storm had 3, 800 berths at sea and as of 1st March stood at 1584. Land accommodations pre -storm were estimated at 2,700 rooms and as of 1st March stood at approximately 336.”